What Happened To Google Glass? How Google Glass Set The Stage For The AR Revolution

  • Google Glass is a brand of smart glasses with an optical, head-mounted display. Just two years after they were launched, Google announced they would no longer be producing a consumer version of the glasses. 
  • Google Glass failed primarily because of a poor product-market fit. The developers believed the glasses would sell on hype and not on how they would solve user problems.
  • Google Glass was also competing against much more successful smart devices such as watches, speakers, and televisions. They also attracted criticism for their ability to covertly film others and didn’t perform any function especially well.

Origin Story

Google Glass is a brand of smart glasses with an optical, head-mounted display. Google developed the glasses with the intent to produce a ubiquitous computer allowing the wearer to communicate with the internet via voice commands.

Prototype Google Glass smart glasses were launched in April 2013 for the princely sum of $1,500. Almost immediately, they attracted criticism from consumers who had concerns over their privacy, safety, and cost

Just two years later, Google announced it would be ceasing production of the consumer version of the glasses. The company then pivoted to the business sector and launched Glass Enterprise Edition for certain workplaces such as factories and surgeries. 

Why did the consumer version fail so spectacularly? Read on to find out.

Product-market fit

product-market-fit
Marc Andreessen defined Product/market fit as “being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.” According to Andreessen, that is a moment when a product or service has its place in the market, thus enabling traction for the company offering that product or service.

Google Glass failed as a product because its inventors neglected to do the proper research on its potential users and the market more generally. Instead of developing a product that would solve user problems, they believed the glasses would sell on hype and revolutionary technology alone.

Poor product development was exposed by the early adopters who could not identify any meaningful benefits to wearing the glasses. What’s more, the glasses were not technologically advanced enough to warrant regular use and Google had not determined whether they were comfortable to wear for long periods.

Competition

Google had lofty ambitions to augment reality with a touchpad, camera, and LCD or LED display. In truth, however, all the company did was supplement reality.

Ultimately, the sunglasses had a limited battery life of between three to five hours. They were also competing with smart televisions, watches, and speakers that had faster processors, larger capacities, and better cameras. 

Stigma and negative publicity

Google Glass attracted significant criticism after it was discovered wearers could film others covertly. 

Some bars and restaurants banned wearers from entry, with the term “Glasshole” coined around the same time. Google then released a statement instructing users to respect the privacy of others and not be creepy or rude, but the damage had been done. 

The timing of the negative publicity was also unfortunate since there was also rising distrust around the power of big tech companies at the time.

Cost

Even the prototype version of the glasses retailed for $1,500 – equivalent to the price of a well-equipped desktop computer.

The high cost of the glasses was exacerbated by the fact that they didn’t perform any function especially well. As a result, those who could afford them were content purchasing a more affordable smartphone without the associated stigma of owning it.

Timing

While as a company you can innovate, and create new markets. Oftentimes, technologies proceed with the development of complementary innovations. At the time, AR might have been too early to be accepted, given the strong transition from desktop to mobile. In that phase though, mobile won.

Setting the stage for the AR revolution

Augmented reality and virtual reality are taking the center stage, in what has been defined as “Metaverse.”

augmented-reality-vs-virtual-reality
Just like Virtual Reality (VR) develops an entirely new environment for the user using the technology and replaces the existing real environment, AR uses the current and real environment. Still, the objects inside are enhanced to stimulate user perception. It alters one or multiple aspects of the environment for interaction and enriches the experience. Whereas VR would have replaced the entire room and shown you an entirely manipulated environment, AR enables users to use the same environment and observe different objects within it.

Today these technologies and products might become the next frontier. As companies like Apple dominated the mobile industry. Who’ll be able to tame the next wave will also ride a very large market.

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