When Google Glass was unveiled in 2012 and launched in 2013, many thought it would revolutionize the way people live their lives. Google announced its new wearable technology in style. Vogue devoted a 12-page spread, models wore them in fashion shows, celebrities and other famous people wore them as if they were the second coming personified in a pair of glasses. For the rest of us, Google launched a special program where a select group of people were chosen to be lucky enough to spend $1500 to be an early adopter. One of them was an employee in my office. He proudly came in with his Google Glass tucked away in a box and displayed and demoed it for anyone who was interested. The interest lasted a couple days. The product certainly hit with a splash. Then… then what? Google Glass all but disappeared.
Google Glass ended up being a failure of sorts. I can’t fault them for that, one of my favorite sayings is that if you’re not failing, you’re not innovating. What I can fault them for is the manner in which it was released. All the fanfare, all the hype. Why? Ultimately, Google tried to put way too much into the product and launch way too grandly. When reviewers and customers got a hold of the product, it failed to live up to expectations. The list of concerns was long:
- It had poor battery life.
- It might look great sitting in a box, but when you put it on, it was almost laughable.
- Early adopters were apprehensive about wearing it in public.
- People raised privacy concerns because it could record photos and video.
- Its list of functional uses was small, and its bug list large.
The list goes on, but alas, Google Glass does not. The project was shelved last year. Does this mean wearable technology is dead? Far from it. Google is rebooting Google Glass and other companies like Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and a plethora of Silicon Valley startups are investing in, designing and launching more refined products. Still others are experimenting with amazing technology like contact lenses that project directly into your eye. Currently they can only project individual colors, but with time the capabilities will grow.
Another trend is starting to creep into the mainstream: augmented reality. What is augmented reality? Simply put, it is adding the availability of data to what you see and do every day. Currently, augmented reality manifests itself through mobile apps. By holding up your phone and essentially looking through the device’s camera, you can see things like store names and hours hovering above a location, or the route you’re supposed to drive overlaid on the street in front of you. More refined applications allow control of the data and use of menus. National Geographic did a great article on the subject. While using a mobile device to do this is rather clunky, and in some forms the data is a little overwhelming, the concept is great.
Now picture combining something like a projection contact lens with augmented reality. Gone would be the ungainly glasses, replaced with something no one knows you’re wearing. Consider that control could be obtained through eye motions or even through just thinking. Sound far-fetched? Not so. Already quadriplegic people are experimenting with utilizing eye movement and brain patterns to select letters from a screen to type messages and answer simple questions. Brain signals are being used to control artificial limbs. Ultimately they are electrical impulses – signals that can be captured and interpreted. One day you could literally control what you see and the data that’s available to you without lifting a finger.
In the next few years, new display mechanisms and augmented reality devices and applications will hit the market. It will be interesting to see how they are adopted and if they live up to their promise of changing the way we live our lives.