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Google Glass demise: Lessons for wearables designers

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS Industry Group? wearable? Google Glass? virtual reality? Microsoft?

The advent of wearables has opened up doors of opportunities for both hardware and software developers alike. Consequently, a large number of those companies have taken an assertive step at being the first to bring to market their respective creations. And just as quick as some of these wearables arrived at the market, so has their departure.

The failure of Google Glass taught lessons about connecting smart glasses to real applications where they can make a difference, stated the head of the MEMS Industry Group.

Alas, poor Google Glass, I never really got to know you. I wanted to, really. I was there when Google unveiled you at its Google I/O lovefest by parachuting on top of Moscone Convention Centre with live video feed of the extravaganza. That was so cool! I learned from insiders and friends at Google that you were adorned with many MEMS and sensors, so of course, I loved that! I was so close to having you...and yet...

I could never rationalise the $2,000 starter price to walk around with another set of glasses in addition to the specs that I need to actually see. I could never accept the stigma attached to them, that I was another "Glasshole" who could track, record and digitise every aspect of my life, personal and professional. I was never comfortable with that level of intimacy with a wearable that was so un-wearable.

I guess I was not alone in my decision not to don a pair of Google Glasses. And as announced recently by Google, the project was shelved and given for a reboot to the head of Nest, the smart thermostat folks recently purchased last year by Google for $3.2 billion.

So what explains the "epic fail" of Google Glass? Why the decision to drop the project within a week of Microsoft's announcement of its virtual reality (VR) wearable glasses HoloLens? Will Microsoft's HoloLens also fail? And what makes a successful wearable?

What a wearable should be

I know these are loaded questions and there are no definite answers. Let me begin by answering the last question in hopes that it will help shed light on the other two.

For a wearable to be successful, the user should not be aware that he/she is wearing it, according to my friend and human-computer interaction (HCI) expert, Mark DiPerri. The wearable should be seamless, powered efficiently and effectively and should enhance the user's quality of life. Google Glass did all these things poorly, and that is why it failed.

That said, I have seen a successful use of smart glasses by Vuzix, who in partnership with enterprise software firm SAP, is marketing an augmented reality offering designed for industrial applications, and in particular, distribution centres. A video demonstration shows some exciting possibilities for a forklift operator.

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