On June 27th, 2012, Google launched an outbreaking tech product, in the style of an invention you might have seen in Mission Impossible and Black Mirror: Google Glass.
This wearable that came in the form of an optical head-mounted display, enabled wearers to check messages, view photos, and search the Internet, among other features - everything controlled by their voice and motion.
Google first unveiled the gadget in April 2012, after rumors about the project spread all over the media. The first showcase of the device came in the form of photos and a video called “Project Glass: One Day…”, which showed a classic day in the life of a Google Glass-wearer in New York.
However, the first prototype of Glass was first shown in public in June 2012 at Google I/O. On the stage, was Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin. On the other side of a Google Hangout video call, there were two guys who dived out of a plane onto the roof of the event’s building and got into the scenery, while streaming the whole thing through Google Glass’ camera.
The release event was incredible. It was probably one of the reasons why the media got so hyped about the device:
“The Explorer Programme” gave a small group of people (mainly software developers and tech influencers) the chance to buy Google Glass for $1,500.
Google Glass launched in 2013 for the US market. Glass buyers began to receive the device in the mail by 2014.
The main ones were:
Here’s an article with more of Google Glass’ features.
As the first users and tech journalists began to receive the device, critics began to arose. Right from this point, the product was doomed for failure.
Let me summarize the causes of failure into four:
To reinforce that the device was still work in progress, Google Glass was first sold to a selected group of geeks and journalists, instead of launching it in retail stores.
However, the strategy backfired them, as the esclusivity this small group had, added interest within the rest of the mortals and the media.
The scene-stealing presentation of the device and the high price also generated a lot of buzz and expectation for the Google Glass.
However, the delivered product wasn’t capable of doing some of the things promoted and it contained a lot of bugs. It’s not a surprise to read that a tech reviewer classified it as “the worst product of all time”.
Google Glass’ design was critized just from the beginning. The device looked really different to a conventional pair of glasses. Many people particularly disliked its bulky frame.
Google aimed to turn the device into something cool to wear, by partnering up with fashion icons and events. However, many people realized about this strategy and kept to think Google glasses looked too geeky.
The built-in camera was one of the most promoted features of the Google Glass. But at the same time, one of the most controversial characteristics.
It was invasive as the people that the Google glasses recorded hadn’t given the person the permission to do it.
This lead to people getting agressive at those wearing Google glasses as well as many places, including Las Vegas casinos, bars and theatres, among others, to forbid the device inside them.
Google glasses were something nice to have, but definitely not a necessity (like mobile phones are) for most of the users.
At the same time, Glass was competing with other devices that had longer battery, better cameras, larger capacity and quicker processors.
This, summed up to the fact that the price was $1,500, made it nonsense to purchase it.
By 2015, it was clear that the Google Glass wouldn’t become a mass-consumption product, so Google began to focus their efforts into an enterprise edition.
The gadget soon became a success in the work environment. It helped improve productivity in the workspace and allowed employees to access information hands-free. Boeing and Augmedix were two of the early clients.
In May 2019, Google launched the Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 and in February 2020, they made it available for direct purchase by anyone for $999.
Google seems to be still interested in the Glass. In June 2020, the company acquired North, an 8-year-old company that produced smart glasses. They claimed the acquisition would help them realize their vision of “ambient computing”, where devices connect and work together.
There are lots of companies working on their own pair of wereable smart glasses, even Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple.
Facebook is launching their smartglasses in 2021, in a partnership with Ray-Ban. It’s still not sure how it will look like and what will the price be.
Amazon has its Echo Frames, which lets you talk with your Alexa assistant and be the only one to hear her responses.
Snapchat also has its smartglasses, called Snap Spectacles. They include dual HD cameras and 3D AR features.