I see four distinct forms of genius in the design of the Glass Explorer #ifihadglass program.
1) Ensure that Explorers love Glass.
I've interacted with over 100 Explorers. I've noticed some unique patterns and trends. These aren't unilaterally true, but apply to the overwhelming majority of those that I've talked to.
Explorers seem to love Glass blindly and whole-heartedly. There're lots of negative reviews of Glass the Internet, but the reviewers have incentives to be negative and sensationalist to drive web traffic. The average non-influential explorer has no such incentive. I've found that they're deeply in love with Glass.
Because Google created arbitrary scarcity, and made Explorers feel special for being chosen in a public contest in which 90% of applicants didn't get chosen. Additionally, Google arbitrarily raised the price of Glass to $1500, even though Glass will be priced at no more than $400 upon release.
Who wants to admit that they spent $1500 on a silly product? That inherently implies a lack of intelligence on behalf of the consumer. There've been lots of studies that show that people will justify and rationalize purchases with higher price tags. It's the same psychology that drives flame-wars on the Internet, particularly in the gaming community.
2) Give Glass to the most influential people
How does the world's ultimate data company go about determining the 8000 most influential people in the country? Easy. Just quantify everyone's social media presence, and use that as a proxy for influence.
This also explains how some people won Glass for entries such as "cut a bitch." Google later revoked those invitations, but the fact that they were handed out to begin with suggests that most of the posts were never actually read by a human.
The combination of these first two traits has been a potent marketing tool.
3) Distribute Patents
The smartphone era induced a massive web of patent battles. Apple sued Samsung and Motorola. There were many others.
Google wants to crowd source every idea, and let the entrepreneurs patent everything as fast as possible so that no single company hordes the patents to sue everyone else.
4) Kickstart development for the app store
Google of course wants to get Glass in the hands of developers so that Glass can launch with lots of fun and interesting apps.