Promises New Version is Coming
- Production to Cease Immediately
- Explorer Program to Be Cancelled
- No New units to be Sold
Google today confirmed that it was shuttering production of its wearable product Google Glass.
The company insists it is still committed to a public launch at a future date but will cease production of Glass in its current form on January 19.
Project Glass is moving away from its current base at the Google X research lab to become a standalone unit.
Future versions of Glass will be overseen by Tony Fadell, the chief executive of the home automation business Nest. Mr. Fadell was previously an Apple hire, and worked at Apple from 2001-2008, eventually serving as Senior Vice-President of the iPod Division under Steve Jobs. He left the company in 2008 and launched Nest Labs in 2010. Nest was acquired by Google in January 2014, in a $3.2B buyout.
In a post on its Google+ account the company said.
“It’s hard to believe that Glass started as little more than a scuba mask attached to a laptop. We kept on it, and when it started to come together, we began the Glass Explorer Program as a kind of “open beta” to hear what people had to say.
Despite early difficulties and controversy over its privacy implications, Glass found many innovative use-cases but it failed to connect with consumers due to a high-price tag, awkward form-factor and limited feature set.
It was seen in a particularly positive light by some medical surgeons who championed the devices potential to revolutionise healthcare. Attempts were made to integrate it with electronic-patient-medical records and to use it as a video-conferencing, tele-medicine and tele-mentoring tool.
It was used to broadcast live-streamed surgery, when on 21 August, 2013, Dr. Christopher Kaeding wore Glass whilst performing surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee of a 47-year-old woman.
In business, Virgin Atlantic used the device to test ways to enhance first-class customers’ travel experiences and improve efficiency. In February 2013 they trialled a service allowing Upper Class passengers arriving in chauffeured limousines at Heathrow’s Terminal 3, to be greeted by name, updated on their flight information, weather and local events and offered free translation for any foreign language information.
The device also proved beneficial to early adopters like Alex Blaszczuk, a young woman who in October, 2011, suffered a complete cervical fracture, leaving her without the use of her lower limbs and with severely restricted movement in her upper body. She was outspoken in her belief that Google’s wearable helped her find a way back into the world.
“Glass allowed me to be an Explorer, both in the sense of a beta-tester program – trying out a cool new gadget to the infinite chagrin of all my more tech savvy friends– but also, more importantly, viewing myself again as an adventurer and the explorer in my own life, something which disability sometimes hinders.”
There were many other ‘Explorers’ and many interesting applications but Google was unable to sell its product and concerns over its front-facing camera persisted. As time passed, developers began to shift resources onto other platforms.
Done but not Dead
The company thanked those who had bought in a statement posted on its website saying:
“Explorers, we asked you to be pioneers, and you took what we started and went further than we ever could have dreamed: from the large hadron collider at CERN, to the hospital operating table; the grass of your backyard to the courts of Wimbledon; in fire stations, recording studios, kitchens, mountain tops and more.
Glass was in its infancy, and you took those very first steps and taught us how to walk. Well, we still have some work to do, but now we’re ready to put on our big kid shoes and learn how to run.”
Whether commercial success was ever an official aim of the company remains unclear. Google often appears to pursue projects without direct regard for immediate financial return. Indeed, the company seems to be indicating satisfaction with the current state of the project on their website, calling the current phase a ‘transition’ and declaring their intention to continue development.
“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.)”
So, Google Glass 1.0 and its Explorer Program is officially over. But with wearable tech experiencing a massive upsurge of interest and Apple readying its watch, it may not be too long before we see the next chapter in the Glass story unfold.