Tech Innovation

Despite its commercial failure, Google Glass was a success. Here’s why


Back in 2012, TIME magazine hailed Google Glass as one of the best inventions of the year, proclaiming it as “the device that will make augmented reality part of our daily lives.” But while the idea of an optical head mounted display is still an enticing one, Google Glass was scuppered by its high price tag, a privacy backlash and the simple fact that if you wore one, people might call you a “glasshole.”

The smartwatch has beaten the head-mounted display

You might think that Google Glass has failed. After all, Google stopped selling it in early 2015 and smartwatches like the Apple Watch, Moto 360 and Pebble Steel now provide similar at-a-glance app notifications without turning the wearer into a social pariah.

But despite its commercial failure, Google Glass was actually a success.

For starters, it has spawned continued interest in smart glasses, head mounted displays and augmented reality applications. Microsoft recently unveiled its HoloLens technology – a head mounted display that enables the wearer to see and interact with 3D holograms. While Sony has announced its first SmartEyeglass developer device (pictured above), which looks better (or dorkier) than Google Glass, depending on your point of view.

Google hasn’t given up on smart eyewear either. Its Google Glass websites tease that “the journey doesn’t end here” and Google Glass 2 is rumoured to be in development under the leadership of Nest founder/CEO Tony Fadell.

Vuzix M100 smart glasses
The Vuzix M100 smart glasses are aimed at businesses and have warehousing, mechanical servicing and medical applications.

The power and convenience of computer-enhanced eyewear isn’t in doubt. But Google’s experience with Glass suggests that it isn’t a mass market product like a fitness band or a smartwatch. Users reported that they felt self-conscious wearing it and privacy concerns saw Google Glass banned from a variety of public places. Future devices will doubtless have a more niche appeal.

Future smart glasses will be aimed at business and sport

Some will be aimed at the enterprise, where Vuzix already sells its Android-powered M100 Smart Glasses. These offer hands-free access to augmented reality applications and HD video recording that make them ideal for medical, mechanical and industrial tasks.

DriveSafe was one of the more useful Google Glass app ideas, developed to alert drivers if they began to fall asleep at the wheel.

Other future devices will be aimed at athletes. Intel and Oakley are already collaborating to “fuse premium, luxury and sports eyewear with smart technology.” We’ve already covered the ReconJet glasses on IQ – the GPS and accelerometer-equipped glasses can display a cyclist’s speed, distance, elevation and a variety of other useful activity metrics in real-time allowing riders to keep their eyes on the road.

Smartwatches might have won the battle for at-a-glance Twitter notifications, but smart eyewear still has a bright future. You just might be wearing Google Glass 2 at work rather than on the street.

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