LevelUp, Other Mobile Payment Pioneers Eye Google Glass

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LevelUp founder Seth Priebatsch could barely contain his excitement when discussing the possibilities of Google Glass, a mobile device built into a headset that Google sells only to a limited number of early adopters.

The device, which is worn like a pair of eyeglasses, pairs with a mobile phone and displays information on a small screen above the user's right eye. It has a built-in camera and touch controls, and responds to spoken commands.

"Everyone who experiences it has a 'wow' reaction. If Google were to go mainstream and make it publically available, we would publish [an app] for Google Glass," said Priebatsch, "chief ninja" (CEO) of SCVNGR, the company behind the LevelUp mobile payment system.  

One of the early uses for payments that LevelUp tested is an app that allows Google Glass to work in place of the handheld reader it uses to scan QR codes off of a consumer's mobile phone. The cashier, wearing Google Glass, would use the touch controls and speak instructions to "push" the payment to the consumer's device.  

"We've been doing this three or four times a day, and it's awesome. It blows people's minds," Priebatsch says. 

Google Glass could serve as a "line buster," Priebatsch says—a retailer's staff could walk down a line of consumers taking payments by "looking" at their smartphones.

LevelUp would prefer to eventually bypass the smartphone entirely, using LevelUp's Facebook integration and facial recognition technology to allow Google Glass to recognize customers by sight. "That way you wouldn't have to look at the consumer's phone," Priebatsch says, though he says this use is a long-term prospect.

PaymentsSource editor Daniel Wolfe and American Banker reporter Sean Sposito have  shared their early impressions of Google Glass' capabilities, and discuss its potential uses with systems like LevelUp in the video below:

LevelUp offers mobile payments for a variety of retailers though partnerships with processors like Heartland Payment Systems, mobile payment companies like Shopkeep POS  and banks such as First Trade Union Bank.

The company recently extended its reach in restaurant payments with pcAmerica and NCR. The NCR deal allows LevelUp to update its technology at many of the NCR merchants that already deployed its mobile-payment system.

Despite Priebatsch's enthusiasm, LevelUp is not currently planning to deploy a Google Glass service, though he says some merchants have inquired about Google Glass.

"They said that if we give them glasses for their cashiers they will go with, but given how restricted [Google Glass' current distribution] is, it's probably further off," Priebatsch says.

Google Glass is being introduced gradually, and currently isn't broadly available. Google currently sells the devices to developers and to early adopters who entered a contest to win a chance to buy the headsets at $1,500 each.

Other payment companies have explored the idea of using Google Glass with their own products.

"We're excited about Google Glass, and anyone who is a developer knows it has a lot of potential," says Oren Levy, CEO of ZooZ, a mobile payments technology company.

ZooZ does not have a Google Glass app, but is experimenting with the technology, Levy says. "We see a consumer walking around a shop and seeing a product that they want. Google Glass can scan the barcode and enter that item into the consumer's shopping cart," Levy says.

Wearable computing technology such as Google Glass can be a way to bring greater context to mobile shopping, says Cyriac Roeding, founder and CEO of shopkick, which offers a sound-based mobile rewards system. 

"It's your personal lens on a store, and the pun is almost intended. Google Glass can show you which items you looked at before, what your friend Sally likes at the same store, special offers, etc.," Roeding says.

The form factor for wearable computing still has to evolve, Roeding says. The Google Glass screen is designed to sit just above the user's field of vision, and the "upward gaze" the device's use is awkward, he says, but this awkwardness can be overcome.

"The computer is getting closer to the body, it used to be on a desk, then it was in your hand, now it's on your face or arm," he says. "If someone is at a store with a full [literal] shopping cart, they can do hands-free shopping with Google Glass."

Google would not comment for this story. Google recently updated the device to support Web browsing. Google is also developing an app store, an MP3 player and a way to lock the device, according to Slashgear.

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