Has Google figured out the future of Google Glass?

At one point, a consumer version of Google Glass was expected to launch in early 2014. That’s what Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said in April 2013, anyway, adding that the model that consumers would purchase would likely see some changes from the Explorer Edition. We’re now in January of 2015 and there haven’t been any changes to the Explorer Edition of Glass, save for one: Google is shutting the program down later this month.

Technically, a version of [company]Google[/company] Glass was made available to consumers last year. After a few limited-time sales periods in early 2014, Google began selling Glass through the Play Store in September. But this was still the mostly unchanged Explorer Edition; last year, Google added some new frames and a USB earbud to the device. By and large, however, there was little different between the first and second Explorer Editions; at least not much to dramatically boost consumer appeal.

google glass angled

So does the end of the Explorer program mean that Glass is dead? Or should Google be celebrating today’s news that Glass will be moving out from the Google X labs and into its own independent division under Ivy Ross and Tony Fadell? That depends on who you ask.

Here are some headlines from the reports of todays news:

That small sampling provides quite the range of pessimism to optimism. I found the same variance on Twitter and Google+ with most of the former sharing negative Glass comments while the the latter is practically celebrating.

As far as Google itself, it has a lengthy post of its own on Google+ that shows excitement. And from that statement, Google clearly isn’t done with Glass:

Glass at Work has been growing and we’re seeing incredible developments with Glass in the workplace. As we look to the road ahead, we realize that we’ve outgrown the lab and so we’re officially “graduating” from Google[x] to be our own team here at Google. We’re thrilled to be moving even more from concept to reality.

As part of this transition, we’re closing the Explorer Program so we can focus on what’s coming next. January 19 will be the last day to get the Glass Explorer Edition. In the meantime, we’re continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready. (For now, no peeking.)

Although Google seems quite clear that Glass is continuing, it’s quite a confusing situation and perhaps that’s because in some sense, Google Glass is a confusing product. For example, who is Glass really for and what’s the target market?

google glass emotions

I don’t think Google ever answered those questions, at least not publicly; although in fairness, as a Google X project, Glass is first and foremost an experiment. And it’s one that Google can learn much from.

I’ve had the Explorer Edition of Google Glass for nearly a year and here’s what I’ve learned in that time, although I stopped wearing them months ago:

  • Society isn’t ready for cameras that are aimed at them when having a face-to-face conversation. It doesn’t matter if the camera is on or not.
  • Contextual Google Now notifications on a wearable device are very useful. But they’re just as useful (and more acceptable to others around you) if they’re on a less obtrusive device, such as an Android Wear watch.
  • It’s harder to ignore information that is appears only a small eye movement away, compared to information surfaced on a phone or watch. That can be good — in the case of extremely high priority information — or bad, since some “noise” will get through and take attention away from more important information around you.
  • Developers have created some interesting applications for Glass but the better use case may be in vertical, not consumer, markets, such as in the health care industry.
  • If people are going to complain about having to recharge a smartwatch every one to two days, they’re going to like recharging glasses daily even less.
  • The [company]Apple[/company] Watch could easily prove me wrong, but I don’t think most people will spend $500, let alone $1,500, for a wearable accessory that duplicates much of what a smartphone can do or requires one to work.

Ultimately, I give credit to Google for going all-in with Glass and to the Explorers that provided so much feedback to Google. I don’t think Glass is “dead” but the next iteration won’t have subtle changes; instead, Google is going to strongly rethink what it wants to deliver in a glasses-like device.

sony smartwatch 3

For now, my Google Glass will continue to sit in its case while I wait for to see what Google does next. Besides, Android Wear does much the same as Glass for me (if not more), save for taking pictures. And as Glass has proven, that’s probably a good thing.