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This is why Google is going back to the drawing board with Glass

The company will stop selling the device in its current format on 19 January, saying it wants to build for the future instead.

GOOGLE GLASS HAS taken a hit as the company has decided to close its Explorer programme.

From 19 January onwards, the company will stop taking orders for the device, but said it would continue supporting companies that are using it.

According to the BBC, Google will instead focus on future versions of Glass and the team will now answer to Nest CEO Tony Fadell, who will oversee how the product develops.

In a post on Google+, the team said that it’s “continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready. (For now, no peeking.)”

The decision sees Google going back to the drawing board after spending three years trying to popularise its wearable device.

Limited success

Google Glass was a product born from Google X, the company’s research department which is also developing driverless cars , a drone delivery service and smart contact lenses among other things.

It was first unveiled back in April 2012, but it was at its developer conference, Google I/O, in June 2012 that people sat up and took notice.

As a way of showing off the technology, it had two men skydive and ride mountain bikes while wearing the device, with the footage was being live streamed. As a spectacle, and to show off the potential of Google Glass, it stuck in the mind.

Source: Google Developers/YouTube

The programme was made available to developers in the US shortly after and cost $1,500 – a price tag it kept even when it expanded the programme to regular users in the US and UK – meaning only those who were enthusiastic about it were going to invest in it.

Demos showing off what Glass could do was also cause for excitement, and there was a real feeling that this was going to be the future at some point, even if it did seem a bit nerdy.

Source: Google/YouTube

From there, however, the problems began to pile up. While the technology behind it was decent, Glass isn’t exactly what you call a stylish device. Despite the attempts to add prescription glasses and bringing in fashion experts to make it popular, it didn’t stop it from being associated with a specific demographic.

And then you had the legalities and privacy concerns surrounding it. Concerns about wearing it in the cinema in case someone started recording a movie, wearing it while driving - which led to Google lobbying US officials as a way of limiting possible restrictions on it – and the possibility of being recorded without knowing about it cropped up regularly.

While some of the fears were exaggerated, many were legitimate and trying to calm fears when your core business is data was a difficult sell. Also, if you have to release a guide telling Google Glass users how to behave when people approach them, there’s a problem.

Even Google’s own coverage of the device began to wane as time went on. In Google I/O 2013, the only appearance it made was when Larry Page arrived on the stage wearing a pair, but they weren’t mentioned in his speech or Q&A, while no mention of it was made at the 2014 event. Instead, Segery Brin mentioned a VR experiment called Cardboard at the end of the keynote.

The biggest kicker was that there was no real use case for it. Apart from curiosity, there was no core feature that made you want to try it out, and even when you did, there wasn’t enough there to make you want to continue wearing them daily.

They were useful for getting directions and not having to look down at your phone, but that’s not enough to get the average person interested.

Google Tablet Google's co-founder Sergey Brin demonstrating what Google Glass could do at Google I/O 2012. Source: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

What happens now?

Since it was the first to come out with such a device, the odds were always stacked against Google, despite its influence and resources. Products and ideas fail all the time and it normally takes a few iterations before they make a breakthrough.

Just look at the Oculus Rift, which came long after VR was popularised during the late 80s/early 90s, or the original iPhone in 2007 which took features that were on phones for years and made a popular product.

Being the first-mover isn’t down to just being first, there are numerous, sometimes uncontrollable, factors that determine whether a product is successful or not and because of the nature of said device, there was always going to be concerns.

Taking it away from the public eye and making it a private development may be for the best for Glass. A fresh product, or greater acceptance in similar wearable devices, may dispel some of the negativity that has surrounded the device and having Fadell overseeing its development may see it better address concerns from people.

At the very least, it has paved the way for other companies to release their own smartglasses, usually with work and productivity in mind. Google will come back and unveil a new product, there’s no doubt about that, but how long it will take before it’s finally released will be anyone’s guess.

Read: Everything you ever wanted to know about Google Glass (but were afraid to ask) >

Read: One of the best smartphone games of 2014 made almost €5 million >

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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