Google Glass - what happens now?

Let's separate fact from speculation and consider the road ahead for Glass

by Roberto Ascione

Google Glass - what happens now?
Google Glass - what happens now?

Following Google’s recent announcements about Glass, many were buzzing about Glass being a doomed project from the start and that this announcement simply marked the final nail on the coffin. However much of what has been reported has been misleading. Let’s separate fact from speculation and consider the road ahead for Glass.

1 – Glass is no longer part of Google [x].
TRUE. Google believed that Project Glass was ready to "graduate" from Google [x], the company’s secretive R&D group that works on futuristic products such as self-driving cars.
This is actually good news since it has now become a full-fledged business unit within Google proper and will enjoy access to larger budgets, more manpower and the ability to tap into Google’s talent pool across the organization. This bodes well for the future of Glass.

2 – The consumer-focused Glass Explorer program has ended because of lack of consumer adoption.
FALSE. While yes, the Glass Explorer program has indeed ended, consumer adoption had nothing to do with it. Its end merely marks the next phase of growth for Glass. The public beta program had to be concluded as a prerequisite for any future release of new Glass hardware. This means that now Google can apply the learning acquired during the experimental phase to improve future Glass devices.

3 – Several high profile executives key to developing Glass have recently left the company.
TRUE. Several key Google employees instrumental to Project Glass – including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and director of developer relations Ossama Alami – have recently left the company. However, Google demonstrated their faith and commitment in the product by assigning its top hardware talent , Tony Fadell (who already has several huge successes such as iPod and Nest to his name), to lead the new Glass business unit.

4 – The Glass Collective has been dissolved.
TRUE. The Glass Collective is a Glass funding consortium created by Google Ventures and two of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capitalists, Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins. While Glass Collective has been recently dissolved, it is a mere recognition of the maturation of Glass in the market; with the Collective believed to represent a marketing stunt on the part of Google to drive entrepreneurial interest around Glass.

5 – Most glass app developers are abandoning their projects.
FALSE. In a report by Reuters, 9 out of 16 Glass app developers they contacted said that they had stopped work or abandoned their projects citing reasons such as lack of customers or device limitation. 3 more have switched from developing projects for consumer to developing for business. However, there are still a significant number of larger developers with Glass. There are nearly 100 apps on the official web site including players such as Facebook.

6 – Official partners of Glass are losing confidence in the project.
FALSE. While Glass may have suffered a couple of recent PR hits when Twitter stopped supporting its Glass app, there still remain a stronghold of steadfast partners. Despite the faux pax by Luxottica’s (the world’s largest eyewear manufacturer and Glass partner) on how he finds the device "embarrassing", this partnership shows how Google acknowledges the importance of infusing consumer-friendly designs (and pricing) in order to make Glass more appealing to the broader market.

So while there is still uncertainty over the prospect of Glass as a mainstream consumer device, many companies and industries have already started using Glass as part of their daily business.

Look at the Glass for Work program which was launched in April 2014 with the aim to help businesses leverage the innovative and powerful use of Glass technology. It now has 10 official partners from industries such as healthcare to manufacturing to travel and so on. Here are a couple of examples in action:
CrowdOptic uses Glass as portable computers for surgeons and is currently in use at 19 US hospitals and expects to be in 100 hospitals by next year.
Pristine has since rolled out Glass in hundreds of clinics, ERs, ICUs and med schools in the US, and has invested in the optimization of Glass to that point where they are rolling out HIPAA-compliant live video streaming on Glass at scale.

Glass adoption in the enterprise context and especially healthcare space might continue. It is easy to see why given the many Glass opportunities in medical education, surgery (here’s an interesting video that demonstrates the use of Glass for surgery safety checklists at Stanford University), EHR data access, and so on. Whatever the final outcome, the Glass program has already contributed to challenging the status quo in healthcare and spurring people to imagine and experiment new realities.

No doubt there still remain several barriers to adoption be they technical limitations or privacy concerns, one thing is for sure: Google Glass or similar devices are not dead. They are just finding their way within the ever growing interface ecosystem being shaped by user feedback (which is always a good thing). Watch out for Glass 2.0.


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