kid wearing google glass

Product review – What happened to Google Glass?

Just by using audio, visual, and location-based inputs, Google Glass was expected to drive human technological advancement.

Released in 2013 by its developer Google X (now X), it was a wearable, voice-controlled Android device resembling a pair of eyeglasses and displaying information directly in the user’s field of vision. Its operating system is based on a version of Android, and can run apps called Glassware that is already optimized for the device. Plus, it has a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity with a built-in camera for taking photographs and videos.

However in January 2015, Google ended up abandoning the pricey glasses as a consumer-focused gadget, seeing it having “only a few swings at the mainstream market.

So what happened?

Tl; dr;

Google Glass, released in 2013 by its developer Google X (now X), was a wearable, voice-controlled Android device resembling a pair of eyeglasses and uses audio, visual, and location-based inputs to provide relevant information.

However in January 2015, Google ended up abandoning the pricey glasses as a consumer-focused gadget, seeing it only a few swings at the mainstream market.

What happened to Google Glass?

Google glass

Source: Antonio Nieto

Though Google Glass did cause quite a stir, there were already concerns raised even before the product was launched.

One of these is the health and safety issues as everyone is not comfortable with the idea of having a gadget that constantly emits carcinogenic radiation so close to the head. Also, the gadget’s built-in camera raised privacy and piracy concerns, meaning the person sitting in front you in a café, subway or at the next table could be taking a picture or video footage of you, knowing that it records and takes photos at any time.

As quoted in CNBC’s report:

Google unveiled the smart glasses at its I/O conference in April 2012 in a high-profile demonstration featuring skydivers, and rolled them out to developers a year later. But the product was pricey at $1,500, and not particularly stylish. Onlookers were also concerned about the glasses recording them without their knowledge, which led to several Glass-wearers being attacked in public. Google discontinued Glass as a consumer product in 2015.

Why?

Let us try to analyze what could be the reasons why Google Glass’s product development failed:

  • Unclear launch date. There isn’t a clear date set for the official launch of the product. That’s why consumers were never tuned as to when and where could be the actual release of the product. With this, Google Glass’s team of developers weren’t able to build a momentum around it.
  • Shaky business case. One of the biggest issues concerning Google Glass is it targeted a wrong market. Instead of being a transformational tool for professionals such as pilots, engineers, executives, doctors, truck drivers, police, etc., Google wanted to be seen it as hip from the get-go. That’s why prototypes were given to early adopters and celebrities, in the hopes of driving more customers to pay for the $1,500 hot trendy gadget happily. If that wasn’t enough, remember that wearers of the Google Glass were nicknamed as “Explorers”.
  • Unlimited budget yet NOT enough to make a project succeed. As what any project managers dream for their projects, unlimited budget “both cash and resources,” the Google Glass project has a significant advantage. Sadly, it didn’t became successful.
  • Aesthetically unappealing. Google Glass NEVER became a final product because the project didn’t have a well-defined quality plan.
  • Focuses more on feature NOT with benefits. Although Google did a lot of communication, but they tend to focus more on features instead of its benefits. Their 2012 demo featured skydivers and bikers using the device, there were displays during fashion shows, and even royalty wearing the glasses – seems like it was a GoPro replacement.

Google’s product campaign focused more on Google Glass’s deliverables: a 5 mega-pixel camera activated by a 30-degree tilt of the head, a touchpad on the side allowing its users to control the device, etc. It was never explained how the cool-tech could benefit the education sector or rather scientific research.

Quality issues

Since its release, Google had encountered serious quality issues:

  • Poorly developed design;
  • Uncomfortable earpiece;
  • Needing a phone to do almost entirely everything;
  • Applications are difficult to develop;
  • Winking to take a picture didn’t work properly; and
  • Short battery life (2-3 hours).

Plus, a string of health, security, and privacy issues were raised as well:

  • Heath issues concerning Wi-Fi signals in inches away from the user’s head;
  • Ability of stealing smartphone passwords using Glass;
  • Identifying people by way of facial recognition raised breach of privacy; and
  • Prohibitions with regards to the use of spy gadgets that can record audio, video, or take photos without permission.

Summary

Google Glass was released in 2013 by its developer Google X, was a wearable, voice-controlled Android device resembling a pair of eyeglasses and uses audio, visual, and location-based inputs to provide relevant information.

However in January 2015, Google ended up abandoning the whole project. Some of the main reasons are unclear business case, not focusing on the user’s benefits, and quality issues.

By Tuan Nguyen

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