In recent news, Google has chosen to end sales of their Google Glass smart glasses technology, a decision which seems to stem from the apparent lack of viable market for the device.
Until now, the product was available through Google’s beta program, known as The Explorer Program, which allowed beta testers and software developers to purchase Glass at $1,500 retail. The program was intended to transition into a full scale consumer launch, but with a lack of consumer demand and dwindling developer interest, Google has decided to pull the plug on current iterations of the smart glasses technology.
Google insists this announcement does not signal a complete departure from smart glasses and other wearable tech, but it does seem like a tactical move done to distance themselves from recent criticisms of the technology. Bars and Restaurants had already begun banning the device, given the apparent threat to privacy and safety that the device’s stealthy video capture capabilities posed, and attempts made by Google to establish Glass as a viable fashion statement seem to have floundered. The technology had even developed a negative image of extreme wealth inequality and excessive tech-reliance in cities like San Francisco, where Google had hoped to expand it’s consumer base for the product.
For many this announcement comes as no surprise. Recently, Google CEO Larry Paige was seen giving a talk sans Glass and the product made almost no appearance at the recent Google I/O software development conference. Google had never announced an official release date for the device, which is a bad sign for investors and developers looking for evidence that Glass was more than an experiment. Developers seemed to be shying away from Google’s smart glasses, with 9 out of 16 major developers admitting recently that they had halted development of Glass software in favor of more viable markets.
What does this mean for the future of Google’s smart glasses technology? For one, the project is leaving Google X, Google’s R&D division, and is set to be overseen by Tony Fadell, Google’s recent acquisition, former Apple designer, and head of Google’s Nest team. And with all current hardware essentially abandoned, Google will have to work hard to regain the trust of early adopters who purchased the $1,500 kit with hopes for future development.
For the time being, Google has taken Glass completely under the radar and any future iterations of the smart glasses technology will likely be vastly different from the kits distributed through The Explorer Program in the last two years. Hopefully the next attempt by Google to enter the wearable hardware market will improve on criticisms of Glass, but that’s not a story you’re likely to hear about in the near future.
What’s certain is that with Google out of the picture, the wearable tech market has opened up for newer additions to take hold, such as Apple’s own Watch, a wrist-mounted device which connects wirelessly with an iPhone, which Apple hopes will avoid many of the pitfalls that spelled the end to Google’s own wearable tech ventures.
Google may have not been able to achieve a full consumer launch, but they have managed to open the eyes of the public to wearable tech—for all its advantages and disadvantages—which is something consumers can get used to seeing more of in the future.