Glassed Off

Murphys Law Glass Mk3So farewell Google Glass. For now at least. It looked like the next big thing, alongside all the other next big things Google is working on, but for the moment at least, the dream seems to be over.

In one sense, no one should be too surprised when Google kills something. Look back over the company’s history and it is littered with the corpses of defunct tech and services. Think Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google Talk and Google Reader, to name but a few.

But Glass was different. It seemed like, to use that phrase beloved of serial conference speakers, a paradigm shift in the way we would interact with the world around us. It seemed to have the potential to fuse the real and digital worlds so that you could go about your daily life in the real world while remaining permanently tuned in to your digital one.

It’s not quite as shocking as Google announcing an end to its work on driverless cars, but it’s somewhere between that and all those other more mundane services Google has killed in the past.

For all its virtues, however, there have always been issues with Glass. Firstly, the device itself was expensive, with the first wave of units costing $1,500 when they went on sale to developers as part of the Glass Explorer programme.

“Beam me up, Scotty”
Secondly, people wearing Glass looked at worst nerdy, and at best like they’d just stepped off the set of Star Trek. Early users reported being constantly stopped in the street by people wanting to take a closer look. But enthusiasm turned to cynicism, as the word ‘Glasshole’ entered the vernacular as a pejorative term for someone wearing Glass.

And it didn’t stop at name-calling, as reports started to appear of Glass wearers being attacked for their early adoption. Occasionally, the attacks came from people who believed the Glasshole had been covertly photographing them or filming them. Understandable, when you could take a photo with the wink of an eye. Bans on Glass in restaurants and bars inevitably followed.

Google insists that the Glass story is not over. Announcing the decision to end the Glass Explorer programme on its Google+ account the company says: “We’re continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready”.

Nevertheless, yesterday’s news will have gone down badly with those developers who have invested money in buying the device and time in developing apps and services to work with it. Those companies that have launched apps for Glass – there’s a decent summary here – will also no doubt be wondering what to do with them, even if Google has pledged to support companies using Glass.

I wonder how Tesco, which announced the Glass version of its shopping app just two days ago, is feeling about the tech right now. Glassed off is my guess. In the words of one developer, Tony Beddard, who posted a comment in response to the announcement yesterday: “Never, has so much, been promised, to so many, with so little delivered, for so much. GIVE ME MY MONEY BACK GOOGLE GLASS.”