Whatever happened to all those people wearing Google Glass all over town? Many were all-in on the greatness of the product, wearing Google Glass to video podcasts, TV shows, and events.
Wearers were gung ho and constantly extolled the virtues of Google Glass. I wrote at the time that the entire product was a hoax. Although ridiculed for the column, one year later, in April 2014, articles began to appear about how all the early adopters stopped wearing the glasses because they were useless and led to personal ridicule. But there was more to it than that.
The sudden disappearance of Google Glass reminds me of a couple of other odd fads that came and went. The first was the overwhelming popularity of VCRPlus, a mechanism that allowed you to punch in a simple number into a video cassette recorder (VCR) for it to record a desired show. On the TV listings these numbers appeared almost by magic overnight in much the same way almost the way vinyl records disappeared from “record stores.”
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This disappearing act also occurred with the once ubiquitous “keyword” employed by AOL. Everywhere you looked you’d see someone on TV, for example, saying “Keyword: NBC News.” or some such thing. This again suddenly went missing—but wasn’t missed enough for anyone to complain.
I was initially of the opinion that Google Glass suddenly vanished for many of the same reasons: a change in the landscape resulting in disinterest. But there was no real change. This disappearance was a little different. It wasn’t outliving its usefulness like VCRPlus and keywords; it was negative social pressure that made them go.
In some ways this is a shame since a number of Google Glass applications still being developed could be useful for customer service and other business applications. Now they’ll probably never see the light. Personally I’ll be surprised if Google does not pull the plug on the product within the next 12 months.
The social pressure came directly from the public. People found these devices insulting and rude. In some ways they reflect the naiveté of Google itself. The company has exhibited a very cavalier attitude towards individual privacy.
The users who didn’t realize that it was rude to wear these info-glasses must have found out soon enough when they’d hear complaints from people on the street, or worse, the ultra-expense Glass was grabbed off their face. I simply wouldn’t talk to anyone wearing Google Glass until they took them off. There was nothing confidential or personal that could be discussed with anyone wearing the device. You’d be foolish not to assume the conversation was being recorded. You may as well pull out an HD video camera and start recording when you were chatting. It was an imposition.
I’ve wondered if there would ever be a time where Google Glass and other “smart glasses” are going to be generally acceptable to the public-at-large. With security cameras everywhere combined with unapologetic government surveillance of law-abiding citizens, adding Glass is just too much. They turned out to be a straw the broke the back of the privacy camel’s back. With news of people wearing Glass being assaulted the product was doomed.
No one needs friends acting as if they were agents of the government, perhaps streaming your image and words directly to the cloud during what should be casual conversation.
Can Glass ever be revived? Is there anything that could popularize them? Perhaps if some famous popular icons began to wear them, they might become cool. But most celebrities have already concluded that the glasses are dorky. Google will never understand the mechanisms needed to make them desirable.
It is time to just kiss this little product goodbye, for good.