On January 19, Google Glass went off sale to consumers, the end of the first chapter in the story of a device that had sparked scorn and excitement in equal measure. “We’re continuing to build for the future,” promised Google, “and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready.”
Since then there’s been a low rumble of behind-the-scenes activity from the Glass unit, now under Tony Fadell’s stewardship in the Nest corner of the Google empire. Business partners are, apparently, still getting devices, and the Google Glass team is working out what comes next.
It’s a team that’s growing. Over the weekend we heard news that Google was hiring several new engineers to work on “smart eyewear and other related products,” suggesting that Glass will be bringing some spin-off devices with it on its return.
The job postings spotted by Business Insider cover audio, RF systems, automation and ergonomic design, so feel free to join up the dots and draw your own picture. What’s certain is that Google’s horizons are expanding.
Yesterday, Fadell spoke publicly about Glass for the first time since being put in charge of the division. “We’ve decided to go and look at every detail, have no sacred cows and figure out the way forward,” he said. “I have a really engaged team, they’re really excited about the future and expect more things to come soon.”
That sounds very much like a team that’s ready for a second try than one that’s being wound down. And the mention of “sacred cows” would suggest nothing is off limits when it comes to reimagining Glass.
While we know little about what Glass 2.0 is going to look like, we can be certain that it will be entering a very different market than the one Glass 1.0 had to contend with. Microsoft HoloLens, for example, was unveiled just days after Google Glass went off sale.
At its recent appearance at Microsoft’s Build conference, HoloLens’ mixture of augmented reality and Windows left most onlookers impressed. Here was a device even clunkier than Google Glass, but somehow a lot more appealing too.
The main difference is that Glass was designed to be worn non-stop, a wearable extension of the smartphone. HoloLens is a single-purpose headset for wearing at home or in the field—it’s not designed to be something you never take off.
Reactions to the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and other VR headsets are proof that people can get enthusiastic about head-mounted technology after all. Glass is no VR headset, but it’s in the same ballpark, and no doubt the engineers working on it are paying close attention to the changing landscape.
A world where virtual and augmented realities are more common is likely to be more welcoming when Google Glass does decide to make a return: It’s always felt like a device that was ahead of its time.
Part of the pause in Google Glass operations is to “make it ready for users” according to Eric Schmidt. By the time version 2.0 sees the light of day, chances are that users will be more ready for it, too.
Images courtesy of Flickr and Microsoft