Looking Back at Google Glass' Abbreviated Career in Tech Spotlight

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2015-01-23
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    Looking Back at Google Glass' Abbreviated Career in Tech Spotlight
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    Looking Back at Google Glass' Abbreviated Career in Tech Spotlight

    By Don Reisinger
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    Sergey Brin Makes a Splash Modeling Google Glass
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    Sergey Brin Makes a Splash Modeling Google Glass

    The Google Glass saga kicked off in April 2012 when Google co-founder Sergey Brin wore Google Glass at the Foundation Fighting Blindness event in San Francisco. Not surprisingly, the device made a splash and kicked off a firestorm of speculation on what the wearable would do, how it would work and how much it would cost. Over time, those details would be made clear, but in 2012, the excitement was palpable.
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    Questions Abound About How It Would Work
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    Questions Abound About How It Would Work

    As soon as Google Glass was announced, questions surfaced from all sides wondering how the wearable would work. Because it was part of the Google X labs, the search company was loath to provide details. A month after its unveiling, Google demonstrated the device's ability to shoot video and offered up more details as time went on. It wasn't until April 2013 that the company finally started allowing users to get their hands on Glass.
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    Google Goes Social to Get the Word Out
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    Google Goes Social to Get the Word Out

    Google's way of attracting beta testers to Glass was arguably an ingenious use of social networking. Rather than simply ask users to sign up online, the company requested that would-be Explorers tweet the company a message with the hashtag #IfIHadGlass. Those who gave the best answers to what they would do with the technology were first to join the Google Glass Explorer program and receive one-on-one instructions with a company employee on how to use the wearable.
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    The Specifications Look Rather Ho Hum
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    The Specifications Look Rather Ho Hum

    Once the final details on Google Glass were revealed, some were concerned with the device's specs. The wearable came only with 16GB of storage, a paltry amount for a device intended to support video recording, along with a mediocre 5-megapixel camera. In addition, some users were displeased that Google decided to include a video camera that only supported 720p resolution, rather than 1080p. As time wore on and smartphones reached the market with much stronger specifications, Google Glass quickly started looking behind the times.
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    But It Works With iOS 7 as Well as Android 4.0
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    But It Works With iOS 7 as Well as Android 4.0

    One of the smart moves Google made with Glass was not to force customers to have an Android device to enjoy the wearable. Google made clear that anyone running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or iOS 7 would be able to use Glass. The wearable also required a Bluetooth-capable phone. In other words, Google Glass carried no major barriers to entry, which improved its appeal to some degree.
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    Glass Helps Put the Spotlight on Wearables
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    Glass Helps Put the Spotlight on Wearables

    If Google Glass did anything, the device shed light on wearables and the value they might provide in a person's life. Wearables were already in place when Glass was announced, but they were largely a niche market. Now, though, wearables are catching fire, due in part to Google Glass and also Apple Watch. But that became a problem for Google Glass because it soon became eclipsed by a rapidly expanding wearables market.
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    The High Cost Is a Deal Breaker for Many Potential Buyers
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    The High Cost Is a Deal Breaker for Many Potential Buyers

    One of the main reasons Google Glass had trouble on store shelves was its price tag. The device cost $1,500, far more than the average wearable. That was an issue. Customers were asked to spend about the cost of a high-end computer on a device that would be obsolete in just a couple of years. Looking ahead, Google says that it plans to bring the cost of Glass down to a smartphone. It must if the device is ever going to be successful.
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    Glass Users Become Targets for Epithets and Public Restrictions
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    Glass Users Become Targets for Epithets and Public Restrictions

    After Google Glass got in the hands of people, a new term emerged: "Glassholes." The term, used to describe people wearing Google Glass, was based on the way people wearing them would act and the disruptions they could cause in public places. Google Glass was banned from movie theaters, and users were told they couldn't drive with the technology on. Google viewed Glass as an opportunity for Explorers to get more out of life. Instead, the device became a target and caused some people to stop wearing the technology. It was a massive PR issue that hurt sales.
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    Google Finally Lets Glass 'Graduate'
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    Google Finally Lets Glass 'Graduate'

    Google announced in January that it was officially discontinuing Glass in its current form. Google Glass, the company said, would "graduate" from the X Labs to Google's mainstream corporate operations to continue its development and get it out of its beta state. Google said that it would provide more information on Glass development sometime in the indefinite future, but until then, it's saying nothing about it.
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    An Eye on Improvement
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    An Eye on Improvement

    So, what exactly will become of Google Glass? Google, of course, isn't saying, but it's clear that the device's price needs to come down to a level that would appeal more to average consumers. Google also has to enhance its features to be more in line with what people can get from their smartphones or other wearable devices if it is to attract those who want to take decent quality videos, share location information and directions. Most of all, it should have components that actually lead the space, not trail it.
 

Google Glass, the wearable technology developed by the search giant's Google X technology development group, is moving out of the spotlight at least for a while. On Jan. 19, Google ended the Glass Explorer Program, which allowed people to purchase the eyewear-mounted devices for $1,500—which let them not only evaluate the technology, but also think up new applications for these wearable computers. Google says it's not killing off the project, but wants to take more time to work on the concept and perhaps bring it back in another form. In effect, it's being put on an indefinite hiatus, but not necessarily discontinued. Google Glass had a polarizing effect on people, even those who never had a chance to get their hands on the device. It had many strong fans among those who actually used the device, but it turned off many more people who viewed Google Glass as an intrusive technology that threatened personal privacy and so needed to be restricted or even banned. But in the process, it demonstrated the potential of wearable computers and inspired a cycle of product development that continues today. All in all, Google Glass, despite its troubles (and there were many) was a change agent in the technology industry. This eWEEK slide show looks back at how the world reacted to Google Glass since its debut nearly three years ago.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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