In 2012, Google revealed the latest innovation in its technical armory, Google Glass. The device was groundbreaking in its concept, and breathtaking in its lack of usability and collection of bugs.
What should have been the greatest technological invention since the original iPhone quickly became a burden on both Google’s finances and their reputation. Not just a burden, in fact, but a huge, white elephant shaped millstone around their necks. Intended as the breakthrough in seamlessly melding real and digital worlds. Yet, even Google had to admit that early adopters of the technology were really no more than beta testers. Testing for a product that wasn’t then, and still isn’t all this time later, ready for market.
The concept itself is that the user would wear glasses to provide a truly heads up display of their environment. We ask Google on our smartphones for information about local restaurants or directions to a destination. Here, Google Glass would be able to do all this via voice command. It would then direct us visually through images provided on the lens of the glass itself.
Although many developers other than Google started building apps, these rarely got past information categories such as news. In the year after release Google added features. The introduced a video player, to go along with the existing ability to take photos and record videos. Even then, the OS itself, was a version of Android that was so unstable. It quickly became evident that Google Glass wasn’t so much a breakthrough as a huge, expensive, half-baked project.
Add to that the fact that wearers were in risk of being attacked by non-wearers who feared being photographed or recorded covertly. The devices soon became little more than paperweights. In some countries, such as the UK, laws banning the use of mobile devices while driving have been in place for over a decade. These were extended to include the use of devices such as Google Glass, making them even less useful.
Despite this, Google Glass had its fans.
Businesses saw the opportunity to increase productivity, particularly in manufacturing or warehousing facilities. It reduced the need for workers to continually consult handheld or fixed-location devices. Instead, the information presented to them based on where they are or the stage in a process they have reached. The medical community also saw the potential for Google Glass to provide information. If necessary, it could also give guidance during highly complex surgery procedures. All that stopped the widespread adoption was the device’s reputation as an unreliable piece of junk.
Google recognized this shift in the potential user base. It quietly moved onto Google Glass Enterprise Edition, or Google Glass 2.0 if you prefer. They stopped trying to bring together everyday situations for the man in the street. Instead, they set about a more-focused, application-specific use which many businesses have embraced. Many more, up to the likes of Boeing have shown an interest in it as well.
A company interested in using Google Glass for industrial applications currently have to source the units. They then have someone create bespoke software for their specific use. Because Glass is built on Android, this doesn’t require any particularly exotic coding knowledge on the part of the software provider. They just need an acquired understanding of what is needed by the customer.
Because Android is open source, the process of integrating it into existing systems is made that much easier. That is via the use of APIs (Applied Programming Interface) to help the systems talk to each other. That alone suddenly makes the potential for Google Glass enormous.
So, here is the bad news. If you spent hundreds of dollars on the original Google Glass, it has turned out to be a gamble that hasn’t even come close to paying off in the way you’d have hoped. The good news, though, is that your enthusiasm for the technology means it became a technology that just wouldn’t die. That is despite being on life-support almost since it was born. One day a surgeon may well save someone’s life with it, and you can be sure you played your part.