How and Why Did Google Glass Fail?

Amidst the lightning rollout of fashionable, utilitarian merchandise, we think some products emerge out of the ether into our hands in the blink of an eye. This is no deception—it’s a kind of magic. Experimentation is required for any successful product deployment. All the same, evolution is often out of reach or hidden behind the scenes.

Since 2010, Google (GOOG) X, now known as X Development, a fairly secretive initiative founded by Sebastian Thrun, has attempted to improve life and commodities by a factor of 10, rather than ten percent, through efforts called moonshots. Project Glass was assembled by virtue of these ambitions.

Google became caught up in the storm of its own making when it marketed Glass. The company wanted to capitalize on the hype, hope, and potential of the product instead of selling the reality. Rather than promoting the product as a prototype technology from the future as initially intended, the hype-building marketing campaign and the high sticker price of Glass gave it the allure of a super-premium product.

Key Takeaways

  • Google Glass, wearable "smart glasses," is a Google "moonshot" technology.
  • The product garnered considerable criticism, with concerns about its price, safety, and privacy.
  • Google Glass seemed to lack the "cool" factor often associated with successful technology product rollouts.

Understanding How and Why Google Glass Failed

The Dream

Google Glass wasn’t coming to save the world, just to help it. In fact, the central dispute among members of Google X was whether Glass should be used as a fashionable device all the time or only for specific utilitarian functions.

Drawing inspiration from John F. Kennedy’s understanding that bigger challenges create more passion, specifically in regards to the space race, Google's development ultimately strove to integrate feedback into its system.

To do this, Google co-founder Sergey Brin wanted to release Glass to the public and have consumers provide feedback that Google X could then use to improve the design.

The Glass prototype was released early as a result, with the intention of being more forward-looking than expressly convenient. Tim Brown, chair and former CEO of IDEO, feels the effort was not in vain, stating, “There has never in the history of new technology been an example where the first version out of the gate has been the right version.”

Ultimately, although consumers want wearable technology, the functionality needs to be palatable. Glass is an interesting idea: It is nice to look at, but not through.

The Reality

Google originally advertised Glass in terms of experience augmentation. The 2012 demo reel featured skydiving, biking, as well as wall scaling. Eventually, the videos showed user-friendly information instantaneously appearing on-screen during everyday activities. Google’s aspirations were lofty: The technology required lengthy battery life, improved image-recognition capabilities, and a lot of data.

Rather than augment reality, Glass simply supplemented it. The three- to five-hour battery life enabled users to check messages, view photos, and search the Internet. Glass was competing with other devices that boasted superior cameras, larger capacities, and faster processors.

With Glass’s uncertain value came many questions. Would users be comfortable wearing a camera around their faces every day? Others were less comfortable being on the other side of Glass. Some bars and restaurants barred wearers from entry; several simply banned the device altogether.

Furthermore, the device retailed for $1,500 and didn’t do any single action especially well, which is why those who could afford Glass were content with cutting-edge smartphones. In pricing Glass high and limiting access to a specific community of Glass Explorers, Google simply emphasized the division between the haves and have-nots.

People spend egregious sums on luxury items, but they find value with identity. Google Glass seems to be lacking in the department. Superficially, yet crucially, the device isn’t cool.

Google then tried to associate the product with fashion designers. Glass was featured during Fashion Week and in relevant advertisements. In other words, the company tried to buy coolness.

However, the coolness associated with an invention assumes the element of faith—the brand is trustworthy. Art isn’t easy in technology.

Glass is not meant for mass consumption—not at this moment. Google is both behind the times and ahead of them. Nevertheless, Project Glass may be a moonshot worth taking, if Google can stick the landing.

Current Glass

Currently, Google is using Glass technology in manufacturing settings to help make jobs safer. Called Glass Enterprise Edition, Google has developed devices to help manufacturer workflow. These devices clip into glasses or safety goggles, allowing for faster job completion by providing key information without being a distraction.