Is Google Glass dead?

google glass

The future ofGoogle Glass, which first appeared on the scene about two years ago as the big happening of the year, is now uncertain: almost no one has heard of anything about the computerized eyeglasses for months.

On the one hand, rumours have begun to say Google’s wearable is dead, but the company insists they are just improving the product. The fact is Google Glass’ performance was not as expected, there was a lack of apps and the battery didn’t last very long, among other issues. There are a lot of theories around Google Glass these days, some of them being that the company simply needs more time to work out some problems, or that Glass might be morphing into something a bit different than what it was at the moment of its inception. Analyst Scott Strawn points that Google is just "not there yet": "I'm not saying [Glass] is dead by any stretch, but it does seem to be facing some real challenges. I wouldn't say they're calling it quits on the concept, but this form may have more challenges than can be addressed in the near term."

Another point that doesn’t help to believe Glass enjoys good health is that Google declines to say when Glass will be officially released: at the beginning, it was supposed to be released last summer, but now they just say it will be launched “when it's ready”. The main problem right now is that Glass is losing the interest not just of users, but of developers too. And without developer investment, you are lost: according to Reuters, more than half the developers surveyed who were working on apps for Glass have abandoned their projects, citing a lack of customers or current limitations with the device. In November, only seven out of 16 Glass developers contacted were still working on software for Glass. Another problem is Google made consumers pay a lot of money for an experiment that wasn't ready, when Glass was still in a research stage. Google started selling Glass in the US on April 2014 for a limited period, and it became available to the public on May, at $1,500 each pair; Google sold more than 10,000 pairs. It didn't help either that Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who used to wear Glass every time, everywhere, wasn’t wearing it at a recent event.

On the other hand, Google executives refuse to declare Glass dead: they maintain that Google Glass is alive and can survive. The truth is it’s unlikely that Google gives up on augmented reality. In fact, Google has recently invested in Magic Leap Inc., an augmented reality company. But without a clear and public agenda, direction, and roadmap for developers, Google Glass seems destined to die slowly. However, Google maintains that they are just working on the head-mounted device, redesigning, improving it and rethinking some features. The fact is, if they wait some time, they can improve trouble like battery life. Google is also trying to move away from the embarrassment that its Glass Explorer program had become.

Plus, in December, technology leader Intel got involved with Glass, and a leader company like Intel wouldn’t invest in a dying product. Actually, Intel plans to push Glass into vertical industries like healthcare and manufacturers. So maybe Google Glass is just changing course, stepping away from some of the more consumer-oriented applications, and the device will end up being a really interesting option for specific areas, but not for common users. After all, people probably don’t want to wear a pair of computerized glasses all day. Wrist wearables like smartwatches are okay, but wearing a head-mounted display is not so comfortable.

Conclusions: the future of Google Glass

Nest co-founder Tony Fadell is now in charge of the future of Glass. If there's someone who can turn Google Glass into something regular people would care about, it's him. As an example, Tony Fadell was in charge of producing Apple’s first iPod.

The Google team is known to be working on the next generation of the head-mounted device, and progress on that front would explain why they seem ready to abandon their older, more primitive Explorer Edition hardware. In January, Google said it would stop selling prototypes of Glass, closing out its Explorer program.

Besides, Google may be focusing on specific areas like healthcare and enterprise, forgetting the more consumer-oriented appliances of the device: while other kind of wearables is undoubtedly comfortable and easy to wear, no one wants to carry a head-mounted display all day. As we said on a previous post, healthcare is actually one of the areas where Google Glass can bring a lot of solutions, with apps that could help the visually impaired, others that would allow tetraplegic patients to communicate just by slightly moving their head, for surgical operations where doctors can receive wireless directions or thanks to apps like WatchMeTalk, which turns conversations into text to help the hearing impaired. But maybe we finally won’t see ordinary people wearing Google Glass in their everyday lives, scanning reality and taking pictures on the go.

For now, all we can confirm is Google remains committed to developing the product, though there’s no publicized launch date. Google repeatedly pushed back the Glass' release date: initially, they said they would release it in 2013, but last summer they stopped giving any release date at all. Google wants us to think that they are just reinventing and improving the product: experts expect the next version of Glass to be smaller, to have a larger image area and a better augmented reality environment. Let’s see what the future will bring. The question is: will we see it through Google Glass?

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