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Google Glass strikes back

Mike Elgan | Aug. 22, 2016
Mocked and shunned by society for wearing Google's dorky face upgrade, Google Glass fans were right all along

The single most innovative wearable of all time has to be Google Glass.

Yeah, I said it. And it's true.

If you read the tech blogs, you'd be forgiven for believing that Google Glass is a failed product, dead and gone. But in fact, the opposite is true.

The Google Glass Explorer program succeeded wildly. Google is feverishly working on new kinds of Google Glass products, and the innovation around Google Glass never stopped.

Wait, what was Google Glass again?

On April 15, 2013, Google launched its Explorer program for Google Glass. It was a kind of unique beta program set up not only to test the product but also to find out what people might do with it.

The smart glasses cost $1,500. (Some, including me, believed that the high price was in part to keep away casual, nonserious users. High cost was a feature, not a bug.) For most of the Explorer program, Google Glass was available by invitation only. While Google Glass was slammed for being unpopular, Google had, in fact, worked hard to keep the number of users small.

Google Glass runs on an operating system called Glass OS, and most of the components inside are similar or identical to smartphone parts. Glass has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of flash storage, plus a camera, a microphone, an accelerometer, a gyroscope and an ambient light sensor.

But Google Glass also has unique parts, like a 640-×-360-pixel prism projector that beams the screen into the wearer's right eye. A touchpad on the right side enables gesture control, and you can take 5-megapixel pictures by winking. It also captures video.

On Jan. 15, 2015, Google announced that it would end the Explorer program and move the Glass operation from the Google X lab into a product development group.

This transition from research beta to product development was falsely reported as a "failure." (Greenlighting a research program as a full-blown product line does not suggest failure. And a product that has not shipped yet cannot be called a failure.)

Google is even still actively providing free tech support to Google Glass users. Google! Providing tech support!

In fact, Google Glass is one of the most exciting pre-products in the history of technology. Even the discontinued test version is the foundation of multiple revolutions in science and industry. The actual Google Glass products will probably dominate the future of wearables.

Forget the tech press's false narrative around Google Glass. Here's what's happening with one of the most revolutionary products ever.

What people are using Google Glass for right now

Airplane and aerospace giant Boeing is using Google Glass to help the people who make airplanes. Glass solved a problem that Boeing had for years, which is how to streamline the connection of aircraft wire harnesses, a process that normally required massive amounts of paperwork. Now, airplane assembly workers get needed information hands-free using Glass's voice-activation feature while they use their hands to do the actual construction.

 

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