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APX Labs snaps up Google's Glass for Work leader

The Internet-connected headset software platform maker has hired Eric Johnsen, the founder of the Glass for Work initiative at Google X.

Eric Johnsen jumped from Google X to APX Labs to help find more partners in need of Internet-connected headsets. APX Labs

Eric Johnsen has taken his background in developing enterprise uses for Google Glass to the software side of the Internet-connected headset business at APX Labs.

APX Labs is building a software development platform called Skylight that makes it easier for companies to make headset apps and software systems. The company is partners with Google on the Glass for Work initiative that Johnsen created to help convince businesses that Glass could help them solve a variety of problems.

Johnsen, who started as the vice president of business development at APX Labs at the beginning of July, said the desire to use Internet-connected headsets is "hitting hard" for certain industries.

"Energy, health care, manufacturing, they know exactly how they want to use Glass," he told CNET.

These uses include having a remote expert on hand to provide in-depth help on a manufacturing line, just-in-time training to remind an employee of recent coaching, and task flow help, such as a presenting a checklist in an environment that must remain hands-free like a hospital.

While the virtual reality, full-overlay system popularized by Oculus Rift could become useful for training situations that require an immersive experience, Johnsen sees more immediate growth in heads-up displays like Google Glass and augmented reality headsets, such as the Epson Moverio.

Because the field of Internet-connected headsets is so new, Johnsen is tasked with convincing businesses that they not only need APX Labs' software platform, but the headsets themselves, too.

"Glass and Glass at Work have done a great job of identifying the market," he said. "We're going to be strong partners with Glass. They can support us with more APIs and infrastructure, but the onus is on us to convince customers that they can solve problems on Glass."

Johnsen had a nearly five-year career at Google, where he served as a partner developer manager at Google Enterprise before moving to the Google X team to work on Project Glass. At Google Enterprise, he was a founding member of the team that built the Google Apps resale and integrator channel from scratch to $500 million in global revenue business. It now makes Google more than $1 billion.

His manager at Google X, Kelly Liang, wrote a glowing review of him on LinkedIn.

"Eric did a terrific job conceptualizing and launching the Glass at Work program with several leading partners that were already supporting large-scale enterprises," she said.

Google Glass has been perceived so far as one of the pinnacles of unfashionable nerdwear. Tension between Glass users and the people around them has erupted in the headsets being banned and, occasionally, violence. This helps explain why Google wants to promote niche and enterprise uses for the maligned headset. If people can interact with nurses, construction workers, or mechanics using them, or even be required by their company to use Google Glass at work, perhaps they will be more interested in getting a pair themselves.

Johnsen is not swayed by naysayers. He's convinced that Google's efforts with Glass will pay off, and said that he has bet his career on Glass.

"I see it as an evolution from computers to laptops to smartphones to wearables," he said. "My 8-year-old cannot make sense of a keyboard. Why would you interact with a computer this way?"