The brain trust at Google may have gotten a hint that their “smart glasses” project, referred to as Google Glass, would face some serious hurdles after a Saturday Night Live skit in March of 2013 framed the device as awkward and full of bugs with a wider slice of the public than Google been able to reach since the introduction of Glass in April of 2012. Despite the fact that the SNL skit exaggerated, for comedic purposes, many of the ways in which voice and motion commands worked with the product, many of the gags were close enough to the real thing that the Google developers who were working on the project probably found little humor in what was actually a pretty hilarious depiction of the product.
Beyond the issues that were ridiculed by SNL, The Daily Show, and an infinite number tech publications across the web, the true purpose of Glass was never really understood by consumers, which led to uncertainty and suspicions that the wearable technology’s primary utility was to secretly record and film people. Bars and casinos in Las Vegas banned the devices shortly after their introduction and the perceived creepiness of a device that may or may not have been filming and recording brought the wrath of people in bars, parks, and a wide variety of public venues against wearers of the technology.
There were other obstacles as well, including the price of the device as well as its unfashionable look. Google has had recent successes competing on price with its Chromebook and Chromecast products but elected to keep the price of Google Glass at $1,500, despite offering the same types of apps and services that consumers already had on their smart phones. The next issue was the look of the product, which featured stylish frames from Luxottica, but sported a projector that made the glasses look like some kind of futuristic medical device. These issues, combined with privacy concerns, basically ensured that the product would be dead on arrival at the consumer level.
Facing an uphill battle in terms of form, functionality, and privacy concerns, Google has taken a step back in terms of its ambitions with Glass and has stopped selling the current generation of the devices. The company insists that research and development will continue, but the project has been moved out of Google X, its top secret lab for innovative products. Glass will now be overseen by Tony Fadell, who founded home automation developer “Nest Labs”, which was purchased by Google in January, 2014.
Despite all of its issues, Google Glass did have successful applications in specific situations, including with first responders, EMTs, and paramedics who could transmit images of injuries ahead to emergency rooms to facilitate fast and efficient treatment upon arrival. It could be in smaller niches such as these that Google Glass gains early traction, with mainstream consumer adoption likely being much further down the line.