Hollywood Divided on Google Glass

Sergey Brin Diane Von Furstenberg Yvan Mispelaere Google Glass - H 2012
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Sergey Brin Diane Von Furstenberg Yvan Mispelaere Google Glass - H 2012

New wearable screens have theater owners considering a ban while others see a new content play.

This story first appeared in the May 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Does Google Glass have a bright future in Hollywood?

The prototype eyeglasses, which Google has begun offering to developers and select insiders for $1,500 in advance of a major rollout later this year, have become the talk of the tech community. They connect to the Internet and allow wearers to take pictures, send texts, post to social media sites and -- perhaps most interesting to the entertainment industry -- record and watch video.

On May 17, Hearst's Elle magazine launched a "Glassware" app for Google Glass, joining apps created by The New York Times, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and CNN that have been pushed out for the approximately 500 developer model glasses in use. In Hollywood, studio spokesmen and an MPAA source say the majors have not had conversations with Google about providing content for the product. A Google spokesman says other content providers beyond those announced are researching how to use the new prototypes, but he would not identify them.

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Meanwhile, producers and studio executives tell THR they already are contemplating whether web-enabled glasses might be a new platform to deliver movies, TV and news. "It's what we're all talking about," says producer Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad). "Content is going to be delivered in every possible way. Why not have something that is almost part of us?"

Johnson expects the technology to lend itself to trailers, shortform video and news clips rather than longform movies or even full-length TV shows. In short, the glasses could replace the smartphone as a more convenient content-delivery device.

Producer and sports team owner Peter Guber (Rain Man) foresees the technology being useful to Hollywood as a Minority Report-style promotional vehicle. "As you go by a theater, you may see a movie title and then watch a trailer for 30 seconds," he predicts. "You look at it and say, 'OK, I'll buy it.' The transaction, the experience, the information are all merged together."

But at least one industry group, the National Association of Theatre Owners, isn't pleased with technology that could allow users to take photos or video simply by winking. NATO tells THR it is studying whether to ban Google Glass from theaters because of piracy concerns.