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The withdrawal of Google glass has been considerably quieter than its launch. That’s hardly surprising; Google made a heck of a fuss about Google Glass and the Smart Glasses that were to deliver it to market. The problem, it seems, is that there wasn’t (and isn’t) a market to take the product to – or at least there isn’t the mass market that Google’s ambitious execs had envisaged. But that does not mean that the idea is a dead duck.
There are still niche areas in which the utility and Google Glass is being explored – not least in medical and engineering settings. But for the rest of us – for the time being at least – this is another one of those things that might have been, like steam driven cars or dirigible passenger aircraft.
At root, the idea that a form of wearable technology could be delivered in the form of a pair of glasses is not unsustainable. As the medical and engineering niches suggest, sometimes being able to draw down data in unusual or restricted settings and whilst your hands are busy elsewhere has immediate practical value. The rest of the time however, it seems, such benefits don’t count for a lot.
As the rise of the smartphone demonstrates all too well, people like to involve their hands as well as their hearts and minds in what they are doing. Whether it involves a game of Angry Birds or an assessment of the latest Bundesliga betting when preparing a punt, players like to get to grips with what they are playing with – literally.
There were also widely expressed concerns over the introduction of a technology that was seen as somehow sinister or invasive. There are reports of it having been pre-emptively banned in Las Vegas – you can see why casino operators might not be impressed by the idea! It was, furthermore, outlawed in certain other US territories where Glass’s ability to enable the filming and photographing of anyone any time seemed to touch a nerve that was more to do with a fear of technology pure and simple, rather than privacy concerns per se.
It seems that as soon as a new design either offers the means to achieve some clear practical benefit, or – as Apple have demonstrated – if an existing technology can be made sensually and affectively engaging then there is a natural brake on the roll out of any new product. Google appear to have missed this fundamental truism of tech development.
In truth, this is not the first Google embarrassment of this nature. The company has not enjoyed stellar success in its efforts to generate consumer hardware – even if the Chrome-book is at least commercially viable. But the point about the Chromebook is that it simply recreates existing functionality. As competitively priced as it may be it is identifiably no sort of a game changer.
Development of Google Glass continues, albeit in a different wing of the Google empire. It remains to be seen how and in what guise it returns. It may be that like the steam lorry and the airship that it is simply confined to the margins of technological history. Conversely, it may be that it is taken up by organizations who are less concerned with the niceties of privacy and the preservation of gambling integrity. Don’t be surprised if Google Glass finds its way into a military application. It may have missed the market first time around, but Google Glass is not dead yet.