For all its ingenuity, Google Glass remains obscurity for the overwhelming majority of us. Believe it or not, the first device dropped for the public back in 2014, and, in many ways, it hasn’t resurfaced since then. In spite of the fact that a number of high profile sources suggest six-figure sales within the first year of production, the general consensus among commentators and the public alike seems to be, at best, lukewarm – at worst, they haven’t even heard of the device.
At heart, Google Glass is artificial intelligence in spectacle-form. Much like another (more ubiquitous) wearable piece of tech, the smartwatch, it assumes its role on the body under the guise of everyday practicality (although your ‘eyecare provider’ is responsible for fitting them with prescription lenses), while also promising to streamline and improve many other aspects of life.
It seems to many as though Google’s issue with Google Glass is the lack of thought spared for their user – namely, who they are. The gimmick alone has not carried Google Glass to the height of desirability, and we don’t covet the tech simply because it brings our eyewear into the future.
Without a true user – someone for whom Google Glass will become instantly dispensable – the product has coasted beneath the mainstream for over five years. While the smartwatch has the fitness buffs, Google Glass appears to have focused simply on the ‘busy people’ – those who need to make efficient tech more efficient, and who need ways of accessing their digital lives when their phone, smartwatch, laptop, and tablet are simply not laboursaving enough.
The Current Landscape
Google Glass began with a vision that was not unlike that of any other new device – be that a phone or a smartwatch. It envisioned a more efficient, sociable, cinematic lifestyle for its users, wherein the usual comings and goings of the day were all improved with the help of shiny, new consumer tech. The commercials homed in on ordinary life – navigating New York City, dealing with public travel disruptions, keeping in touch with friends, and posting to Google+.
The scene was picture perfect. The only issue? It struggled to pin down any area of life that really needed the glasses. Our phones maintain contact with our social circles, and very few people wanted to drop $1,000+ on moving Google Maps from our phone screens to our glasses.
For a while, the tech giant pressed on. Now, for Google Glass, it seems as though the consumer market has been abandoned. Interestingly, their own self-titled YouTube channel has lain dormant for six years – the digital equivalent of a boarded-up storefront bearing the sign, ‘Closed Until Further Notice’. The channel is – or, really, was – dedicated to reminding its existing users about the core features of the glasses, rather than advertising or exhibiting the product in any meaningful way.
Their description is equally lackluster. ‘Some tips and tricks for making the most of your Google Glass,’ they write. ‘Learn how to get started.’ Although it seems as though very few of us – Google included – ever did learn how to get started.
A Move Toward the Monitoring Chain
Since the release of its Enterprise Edition, Google’s focus has grown a little more apparent: a large and diverse pool of “workers” – namely field workers in need of technical reference material and schematics.
The move makes sense, and makes us wonder why Google ever bothered targeting the consumer market in the first place. In all likelihood, it was banking on the novelty of the product – and why not? When looked at objectively, for instance, the smartwatch offers no real benefit over the smartphone and, in many ways, offers users a paired down version that makes certain actions – like texting and searching for music – more time-consuming.
What the smartwatch has on its side, however, is a definitive selling point. In targeting the fitness world and investing more into technology such as heart rate monitors and blood glucose – and the simple fact that it can be worn during exercise, rather than held in an unwieldy arm holster – the smartwatch has found its rhythm within the consumer market.
For now, it seems as though utilizing the hands-free, sharable screen within the world of field workers is Google’s best bet. Allowing remote supervisors to witness their workers from a first-person perspective sounds, on the surface, like an Orwellian nightmare.
It does, however, stand up against the same criticisms Google Glass has been privy to for more than half a decade – particularly now, as we face ongoing reductions to the workforce currently operating on-site, and the continued need to maintain some level of distance between one another. After six years on the margins of the tech industry, it feels as though Google has finally found a comfortable perch from which to extoll its benefits.