Google’s Eric Schmidt wants you to know Glass isn’t dead

25 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Glass May Not Be Dead, But It Sure Needs A Complete Overhaul.

That’s what Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt essentially insisted today in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Actually, he specifically said it was still very much alive following January’s announcement that the Glass Explorer program was ending and Glass work moving from secret lab Google X to Google itself, under Tony Fadell, who heads Google’s Nest connected home division. Google stopped selling the first version of Glass and shut its Explorer program in January, moving the project out of its Google X research lab into a standalone unit. Schmidt added that Glass will be the basis of “a big and very fundamental platform.” But given how much it’s likely to be changed, Schmidt might have been better off pronouncing it dead.

If new versions of Google Glass are to succeed, they need to change in a whole host of ways that literally will make it unrecognizable compared with the $1,500 version it sold to bleeding-edge people like me. After using it only intermittently for a year now, I think Schmidt is right that Glass could become a compelling product, but only if: 1) Google hides Glass behind actual glasses.

Google is about taking risks and there’s nothing about adjusting Glass that suggests we’re ending it.” He said Glass, like Google’s self-driving car, is a long-term project. “That’s like saying the self-driving car is a disappointment because it’s not driving me around now,” he said. “These things take time.” Glass has been criticized for invading people’s privacy because wearers can record video and take photos unobtrusively. Google’s smartwatch platform, Android Wear, is still struggling to gain any meaningful traction, but the wearables space may be just too big for the search giant not to continue to experiment. In its current form, the device screams, “I’m a Glasshole.” Instead, as rumors indicate, Google will have to incorporate that screen into existing eyewear. Early users became the butt of jokes, gaining the nickname “glassholes.” But Google remains interested in wearable computing devices, a potentially large market. After privacy concerns fairly or not made Glass unwelcome in many public areas, Google took pains to note that it was pretty apparent thanks to a light beside the camera when Glass was being used to take videos and photos.

The most complex wearables, such as Glass, which have their own Internet connection and operate independently from smartphones, won’t catch on quickly because the value proposition for users isn’t clear yet, IDC said. Privacy advocates may squawk, but if video and image capture is going to remain a key application, it has to be hidden, or else it will always annoy too large a segment of the population. 2) Glass becomes less of a data capture device than a way to augment reality.

Although Google’s ad business could certainly benefit from gathering more data this way, it may have given shorter shrift to its more fundamental mission to make the world’s information more accessible. Of course, a big component of Glass was the ability to get on the Web and use online services, but Glass would do well to offer many more ways to overlay the real world with useful contextual and location-based information such as turn-by-turn directions. 3) The price drops, by a lot. More from WSJ.D: And make sure to visit WSJ.D for all of our news, personal tech coverage, analysis and more, and add our XML feed to your favorite reader. Keeping costs down may well mean getting rid of some capabilities, even the video capabilities I personally found useful, or it may require dropping some rumored improvements, such as better sound.

More likely, it will mean allying more deeply with makers of eyeglasses so Glass becomes an optional add-on to conventional glasses rather than a separate device. 4) The Glass team keeps the PR people away. Even then, it needs to be more careful rolling it out, because Glass’ failure has critics primed to pounce. 5) They name it anything else than Glass. It’s pretty convenient to say “OK Glass” and be able to listen to songs, take photos or videos, get directions, and look up at the night sky to identify stars and constellations. I have a similar app on my smartphone and tablet that I like, but being able simply to look up rather than hold up a screen is, so to speak, heavenly.

After trying it out on bike rides (OK, but a little awkward), runs (sorry, me breathing hard is not a compelling video experience), and our cat (a smartphone takes videos more easily), I put on Glass while catching my daughter during pitching practice. Watching and hearing that ball come in at 40 miles per hour is truly awesome, and I didn’t have to worry about breaking a smartphone screen (just my teeth).

But Google may need to forget all about current apps like that and go back to figuring out what people want to do with a portable computerized device that they can’t do very well with their smartphone.

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