Seven years after its £999 Explorer Edition launched, Google Glass is still around. The difference is that Google now has a better idea of who it’s for, and who it’s definitely not aimed at.
What is Google Glass?
Google Glass, for those unaware, was Google’s first attempt at a pair of smart glasses. A tiny computer attached to the side of the frame, allowing the wearer to see text, pictures and videos directly in front of them, while still taking in the world around them. It could provide directions via Google Maps, take photographs and film video directly from the wearer’s viewpoint.
That was the idea, anyway. As it turned out, Google Glass never really caught on for a number of reasons – chief amongst them was the price. The Explorer’s Edition – Google’s fancy way of describing people who would establish what the hell the product was for – sold for $1,500/£999. That kept it out of the hands of all but the most enthusiastic early adopters.
It didn’t help that this ostentatiously expensive bit of technology was hardly discrete, with its protruding camera above the left lens. Knowing full well how expensive it was, it just looked a bit obnoxious when worn in public – there’s a reason that the term “glassholes” quickly became slang.
Add to that the concerns about people filming others without consent and you can see that Glass had an uphill struggle from the get go.
Where is Google Glass now?
For most of those early adopters, the answer is “in a drawer somewhere”, unfortunately. It didn’t have great battery life at the best of times, and seven years later even its staunchest defenders are finding it a difficult bit of tech to love.
But, after being killed off by Google back in 2015, Glass has found a second life in the business space. The company revived the google.com/glass URL and now sells a product called Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2. It has a (slightly) sleeker design, improved battery life (820mAh compared to 570mAh on the original) and a “significantly more powerful multi-core CPU” than the original’s Intel Atom chipset. Plus it’s now $500 cheaper, which probably makes all those early adopters feel just great.
But what is its function in the business space? Well, Google lists a number of case studies, claiming it saves doctors around two hours per day, and improving DHL parcel picking by 15%. As you might imagine, the one thing the case studies have in common is the ability to put information up in front of the eyes, without needing to go check another screen.
Will Google Glass come back?
Outside of the enterprise space, the future of Google Glass is hardly looking rosey. Perhaps if it looked more discrete and was available cheaper, it might have a future, but it’s not something Google has been trumpetting – probably wisely given how widely panned the expensive Explorer’s Edition was.
But of course Google isn’t the only company working on smart glasses. Snap, the owners of Snapchat, is on to its third generation of Snap Spectacles, while Apple is also apparently planning smart glasses at some point in the next few years. All it takes is for one company’s design to capture the public imagination, and next thing you know we’ll all be wearing them…
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