Less than a month ago, word came down from the big guys at Google that the Glass Explorer program was shutting down and the company would stop selling the wearable device to the public.

The news was somewhat of a shock. It came out of nowhere. At least, that is how it felt from the public’s perspective.

According to a detailed account from the New York Times, not only was the public testing program doomed from the start, but it was never really meant to be.

google glass

Dedicated engineers and university researchers populated the “Google X” secret lab, where the wearable technology was being developed, along with Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin.

Apparently, Brin wanted to take Glass public, even though the rest of the team knew it wasn’t ready yet. Thus, the Glass Explorers program was born … prematurely.

Because it was still in its infancy, but cost a cool $1,500, reviews criticized the Glass left and right, which eventually put the final nail in the coffin of the beta tester program.

Google plans to continue working on Glass, but behind closed doors and with former Apple product executive and creator of Nest, Tony Fadell, in charge. If it ever does become publicly available, it won’t be for a long time, and it will be the final product.

I’m still not sure how I feel about Google Glass. On the one hand, I love the concept of wearable technology. I’m excited to see what the future holds in terms of computers we wear on our wrists, eyes, hats, or whatever. The more we advance, technologically, the sooner we get to the future I’ve read about in so many science fiction books.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine Glass (or any other facially-located computing device) will ever be popular. People don’t want a cyborg-like unit strapped to their face.

Plus, it leaves open the possibility that someone could be recording everything you say and do without your knowledge. At least with a smartphone, people have to go out of their way to not look like they are taking pictures of you.

The cost is also a major issue. At $1,500 only a select group of people could afford Google Glass, which means it will not be widely adopted. In the tech world, that means it is doomed. The device would have to come down to about $500 for it to be even remotely plausible as marketable to the masses.

Lastly, the technology available right now for something like this is still not good enough. Think about the battery life. At such a miniscule size, the battery only lasts a few hours. It becomes simply a novelty instead of a lifestyle, which means it would end up in the discount bin alongside all of those Bluetooth earpieces.

Hopefully, Google will go back to the drawing board for a very long time and won’t let the world in on its progress until Glass is good and ready. Maybe by then, we will be, too.

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11 replies on “The New York Times explains why Google’s Glass Explorer program shut down”

  1. If it used the entire lens and not just the corner I would be interested in something like it but primarily as a HUD while cycling. It should work better and be safer than strapping a phone or gps module to your handlebars. For anything more and I’d want something more along the lines of “mediated reality” glasses.

  2. There are a few things being left out of most reporting on Google Glass.

    1) The price is supposed to be insanely high. In order to keep the device as a more developer oriented product and not a final consumer version (which many people just assumed that it was) Google vastly inflated the price. The $1500 price has NO bearing whatsoever on a final retail price. The components aren’t anywhere near that expensive, either. Google doesn’t have to do any work to “get the price down” because it doesn’t cost anywhere near $1500 to make in the first place.

    2) To all of the “herp derp camera derp privacy herp recording” people out there: If I wanted to record you without your knowledge with a camera on my person, I could spend a lot less and keep you from even suspecting that I might be recording. It would be MORE difficult for me to use Google Glass to record you than to get a small, completely inconspicuous, and purpose built device for a fraction of the cost (even after final release of Glass). Google Glass is about as much a ‘radical technology for invading privacy’ as the zoom lens.

    1. But it’d be harder to download all the details of their life and scan them in real time while you engaged them in seemingly innocent conversation.

      1. But if their private life was somehow in anyway made public for you to be able to download from… then it’s not private is it? Why would you post things you don’t want people to know about online for Google to be able to search and download?

  3. In the bigger picture, Google Glass doesn’t need to be a waste of time, money and research for the company. I imagine most of the practical things that have been created for Glass could be rolled into Android, Android Wear, and Project Tango, if they aren’t already going to be. The problem has always been wearing this thing on your face; this issue was never specific to Google Glass.

    1. They could easily mod it to flip down as required. Or better still, normal glasses which project an image your retina whenever you request information. Then you’d not have a clue whether you were conceiving an idea or Google was transmitting one. Spooky. Or Barack Obama could send a blinding death ray to people he dislikes.

  4. Honestly, I think this has to do with the fact that it was Google who’s working on it. Almost everyone associates Google with advertisements and lack of privacy. And now Google builds something that can potentially record perceptive data from millions of users if deployed.

    Then there are the die-hards on the Apple’s side of the fence that will trash talk anything their favorite company isn’t working on – Ara, self-driving car, Nest, Glass, you name it. And even if they weren’t die hards, Apple has raised a generation of people that judges a product based on appearance and material. Case in point: unboxing videos. How many unboxing videos are there? There is no point to an unboxing video other than to show off the packaging and the look of the product you just bought. The number of iDevice unboxing videos is incredibly ridiculous. They’re all the freaking same. And then there are “this feels cheap” comments.

    I can see the issues with cheating on tests or movie theatres, but these can be enforced because they’re special events and not like an everyday every hour minute so frequent that you have no control over. Privacy in public, was there ever any to begin with? I’m sure Jennifer Lawrence must’ve felt her iPhone was giving her a lot of privacy. How do you know someone isn’t sitting inside a high-rise with a 1000mm lens filming your every move?

    I think the public denied a great innovation that can potentially do more good than harm. Hopefully Google will really push this out to professional use and prove its advantages.

  5. I have to disagree about Glass or something similar not being in widespread use. The simple fact is that vision is one of our key senses. And the tech to read where we are looking as a pointing device is already pretty mature. Finally, we have accepted regular glasses as a way of augmenting our vision for generations, even though wearing glasses can be a little unwieldy sometimes.
    Add all that up and there is zero chance that some form of face worn connected visual system doesn’t take off in the future. And about being recorded, that can and does happen already. Their will be a clamor about it as their always is. And then most everyone will forget about that and accept it.

    1. I’m looking forward to Google Gobstopper, a suck-it-and-see device which delivers electrical pulses to your taste buds to simulate different flavours, Veronica Salt-style or whatever.

  6. One of my coworker was part of the program and I tried it on. You look like a complete tool when using it because you are looking at the corner of your eye. It doesn’t look natural at all.

    1. That’s how I initially thought about most people with gen1 smartwatches but as the products develop they become more functional, smaller and the designs look more natural.

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