Has Glass Shattered?

Google Glass has been the go-to concept for the potential of augmented reality for the past two years, appearing nearly everywhere and pushing the idea of smart eyeglasses from the public’s idea of science fiction and into the real world. Originally available only to qualified “Glass Explorers” at a hefty $1500 price, the consumer-ready optical head-mounted displays were reportedly going to be available for sale at the end of the year. Recent reports however indicate that the date will likely not come until sometime in 2015.

digital-life-google-glass-early-usersPublic reception of Google Glass has been less than stellar, with many privacy concerns and some locations banning the devices altogether. This may be the beginning of the end for the device that could have been the first to augment the reality of the common consumer — many developers and early Glass users are losing interest. A recent report by Reuters asked 16 Glass app about the status of their projects: nine said that they had stopped work or abandoned the projects altogether (primarily due to the lack of customers and device limitations), three more have left their consumer products behind, switching to developing for business.

We are completely energized and as energized as ever about the opportunity that wearables and Glass in particular represent. We are as committed as ever to a consumer launch. That is going to take time and we are not going to launch this product until it’s absolutely ready.
— Chris O’Neill, Glass Head of Business Operations (via Reuters)

There are still many large and well-staffed developers working on applications for Glass and whenever a consumer model does become available, there will likely be no shortage of official apps.

Unfortunately, Google has also lost several employees important to Google Glass, including Lead Developer Babak Parviz, Electrical Engineering Chief Adrian Wong and Ossama Alami, Director of Developer Relations.

And in what may be the most telling sign of the device’s changing role, Google launched the “Glass at Work” program in April to help focus the device for specific industries, rather than as a consumer technology. Of course, this has lead many developers to consider that Glass may succeed as an enterprise product, not as a consumer success. This is particularly interesting when considering the role of a Vuzix, another maker of smart glasses who has been focusing their development on the workplace since the beginning — the Architechnologist first discussed Vuzix after we met them at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2012 in a piece titled “Can Vuzix Smart Glasses M100 See The Future?“… which, apparently, they can.

This leaves us with one large, unanswered question… the same one that has always surrounded Google Glass: “Exactly what is it good for?” Despite the guarantees from Google that a consumer release will happen, the current iteration — with all it’s positives and negatives, may never reach us. Instead a Glass version 2 (perhaps in contact lenses or wired directly into our optic nerves) might be the consumer technology that we were waiting for all along.

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