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Google Glass: The Second Coming and a Brief History

Google Glass: The Second Coming and a Brief History
by Majeed Ahmad on 02-05-2015 at 4:00 pm

Google Glass is dead; long live Google Glass. That’s how Ori Inbar stated the recent closure of Google Glass beta-test project in his report titled “Smart Glasses Market 2015: Towards 1 Billion Shipments” released by www.augmentedreality.org.

Inbar says that Google, a smart glass pioneer, not only compromised its status in the promising wearable devices market by abruptly ending the program, but also hurt its Glass Certified Partners. He adds that despite privacy and cultural concerns, the project has raised public awareness about smart glasses to an unprecedented level.

Inbar contends that Google Glass is the best thing that happened to augmented reality since the iPhone. However, he acknowledges that it also drew harsh criticism from technophobes, ethics pundits, privacy defenders and fashionistas alike. And that trade press picked on that negative buzz and readily crafted catch phrases like ‘Glasshole’ and ‘Glass Half Empty’.

And now that Tony Faddell—the iPod pioneer and CEO of Nest—has taken the charge of Google Glass work, Inbar quotes reliable sources about the launch of the next version of the Google Glass later this year.

Google Glass History

In 2010, the Internet giant’s top-secret projects lab Google X began the development of this camera- and Internet-equipped wearable computer. The project was announced on Google+ by Babak Parviz, an electrical engineer who specialized on the interface between biology and technology and had worked on putting displays into contact lenses.


Parviz made the first Glass demo along with Sergey Brin
(Photo courtesy of Entrepreneur)

Steve Lee, a veteran product manager who specialized in location and mapping technologies, was also involved in the project’s initial development. Lee had earlier worked on Latitude, a Google app that enabled users to broadcast their GPS location to friends.


Lee was an early contributor to the Glass project
(Image credit: USA Today)

Thad Starner, a Georgia Tech professor who had been building and wearing head-mounted computers since the early 1990s, eventually became the technical lead for the Project Glass. Back in 2003, Starner had shown Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin a clunky version of a wearable computer that he had built at Georgia Tech.


Starner claims to have coined the term augmented reality

Glass was a pet project of Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin. The Internet-connected eyewear was released for developers in February 2013 and became available for consumers later in 2014. Google Glass was, in fact, a do-everything computer and information portal that boasted augmented reality technology and epitomized the next wave of disruption in mobile computing.

It represented a new class of wearable and embedded computers that first absorbed the smartphone capabilities and then promised to offer even more. Many industry watchers called Glass the next iPhone. It was a great idea that encouraged people to imagine and to create innovative new applications and spawn the brand new wearable industry.

The technology behind the Glass was game-changing. However, on the other hand, Glass was a product ahead of its time. It was a mini-computer on your face with a social twist; consumers at large were wary of it being a somewhat creepy device that secretly searched information for its owners.

Moreover, the product design of Glass didn’t go well in the fashion-conscious consumer electronics world where it was imperative for a personal device to look cool. The US$1,500 per pair price tag of Glass didn’t help either when it went on sale for just one day on April 15, 2014.

The second part of the article about Google Glass history is based on excerpts from the book The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future. The book is available in both paperback and e-book formats.

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