Sorry, But Google Glass Isn’t Anywhere Close to Dead
Back in 2013 when I first experienced Google Glass I was absolutely amazed. Immediately some future applications crossed my mind, this could be great for first responders, police, medical staff and firefighters. To have both your hands available and be able to communicate with colleagues. In the last year Google has tested their product with a lot of people, and reactions were to say the least not very good. Personally I think thats because Google opted for a public beta and the product isn't anywhere near to being finished. Recently Google moved the Glass project under new management and thus people all over the internet screamed "Google Glass is Dead". I disagree.
This article by Cade Metz appeared on Wired.com and is definitely worth reading.
Ned Sahin is betting the future of his company on Google Glass.
Sahin is a cognitive neuroscientist with a PhD from Harvard and a masters from MIT, and he recently launched an ambitious startup called Brain Power, building Glass software to help autistic children learn some of the skills they need to interact with those around them. With its “heads-up display,” Glass can provide instruction while kids are engaging with other people, and its accelerometer can track how well they’re responding. That, says Sahin, makes Glass an ideal means of tackling autism, which now affects about one in 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“Google is leading the charge here. They have built a device that has been two-years debugged by thousands of people,” Sahin says. “People like to lambast it because it’s too this or not that—because it hasn’t yet brought us world peace—but it’s still a much-matured device, certainly compared to the wearable stuff coming out of startups and other companies today.”
Yes, Glass is the tech world’s favorite punching bag—particularly in the popular press. On Thursday, The New York Times published something that read a lot like an obituary for Google’s computerized eyewear, and somehow blamed its sudden death on Google founder Sergey Brin and his extramarital affair with a Glass marketing manager. “Perhaps the biggest splash took place last week when, out of nowhere, Google announced that Glass, as we know it, was going away,” The Times wrote. “Poof! Gone. All that fanfare for nothing.”
But for Sahin and many others running companies developing Glass software for medical, industrial, and other sectors, Google’s eyewear is far from dead. On the contrary, Google is selling these companies as many devices as they need, and by all appearances, it’s ramping up the number of Google employees working to turn Glass into something more than a consumer gadget that looks funny on your face.
“We have unimpeded access to Google Glass units and support,” says Ian Shakil, the CEO of Augmedix.com, an outfit offering Glass software designed to help doctors juggle health records. “It’s all a plus for us—except for the fact that we constantly have to field questions from people and customers asking what’s going on with Google.”
Sahin and Brain Power are about to start a clinical trail with Glass at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and he’s visiting Google this week to discuss the device’s future—something he does regularly. “They’re helping to make sure we’re future-proofed,” he says. “People can believe that the device won’t work. But we’re partial to the way Google has done this. And even if Google isn’t behind it, this is an idea that is going forward.”
‘It’s all a plus for us—except for the fact that we constantly have to field questions from people and customers asking what’s going on with Google.’
People like Sahin and Shakil are bemused by recent coverage of Glass in the press, because their relationships with Google have not changed. And, indeed, Google has said all along that its Glass at Work program—which expanded from five to ten developer partners as recently as October, each intent on delivering Glass applications to businesses and hospitals across the country and beyond—will continue apace.
Looking from the outside, Shakil and other Glass at Work partners, including Jon Fischer, the CEO of CrowdOptic, and Yan-David Erlich, CEO of Wearable Intelligence, will even tell you that work in this area has actually increased at Google, with more promises being made (behind non-disclosure agreements). “There has always been this debate about consumer versus enterprise,” Shakil says, referring to the use of Glass inside big businesses. “I think that there’s a recognition here that the enterprise needs to come first.”
Death Greatly Exaggerated
As a consumer device, Google Glass is indeed dead—but only temporarily. In late January, the company shut down the Glass Explorer program, which offered the device to consumers and individual developers interested in, well, exploring Google Glass. But as the Times notes, Google is moving Glass out of its Google X research lab and into a separate corporate group overseen by Tony Fadell, the father of the Nest smart thermostat, where it intends to develop a new version of the eyewear.
“Our recent changes reiterate Google’s commitment to the wearables category in general and we are heads down building the future of the product,” Ivy Ross, the vice president of Google Glass, who will work under Fadell, says in a statement sent to WIRED.
Given Fadell’s background (with Nest as well as Apple) and Ross’s experience as a jewelry designer and marketing exec, you can bet the new version will be intended for consumers as well as business and medical use. Certainly, Google says the device will continue to play both sides of this fence. Chris O’Neill, who oversees efforts to turn Glass into a business, told us as much in December.
But if we can learn anything from the breathless coverage in the press, it’s that Glass is a long way from succeeding in the consumer market, thanks to questions of privacy, aesthetics, and public perception. But these questions are less important in medicine and business. That’s where the device is most likely to succeed, as so many predicted when it first arrived on the scene.
Hardware in Transition
Astro Teller oversaw the development of Glass as the head of Google X, and when the device arrived in 2013, he didn’t wear it much. He needs prescription lenses and couldn’t bear to wear Glass on top of them. “A year ago,” he recently told us, “it was just frustrating.”
Since then, Google has developed a version of Glass that can snap onto your glasses, and now he does wear Glass—or at least he did when we met him at Google X in December. The lesson here is that, when it reached the public domain, Google Glass was far from a finished product. And it continues to evolve.
Yes, Google released it too soon—particularly when you consider that the company was so determined to portray it as a consumer device that you wear at all times. And, yes, this went a long way toward undermining public perception of Glass. But as Sahin, and Arshya Vahabzadeh, who is helping with the clinical trial at Mass General, will tell you, Glass can be a remarkably useful thing when it comes to treating autism. And others in Google’s Glass at Work program, and in hospitals across the country, see similar promise for surgeons and other workers who can benefit from “hands free” online data, images, and cameras as they perform other tasks.
Today, other companies, including Epson and Meta, offer computerized headsets that can serve similar markets. They too have found their way into American businesses. And their press isn’t as, well, negative. But as Sahin points out, they aren’t as mature as Glass.
Certainly, these competitors now have a major advantage over Google’s device—an advantage of perception, not technology. Perception matters. But other things matter too. Many people see Glass as a failure. But others, like Yan-David Erlich, see it very differently. What the device needs, Erlich believes, is a move toward the business world. “I see the news,” he says, “as super positive.”