Modern Marketing

Why smart glasses and AR will come back stronger from the end of Google Glass as we know it

By Ryan Jones | CEO

January 22, 2015 | 5 min read

By now you’ve heard, Google is shutting down Glass as we know it. You will no longer be able to purchase the equipment (unless you are one of the few contracted scientific/industrial users of glass) or receive support for it. Glass never became a major hit with consumers with its high price tag, low battery life and lack of use cases. However, it was never really meant to be.

Google is notorious for creating products or services and releasing them to the public for a wider sample size – because you never really know what a product can do until the public gets their hands on it.

Google Glass was the product that brought enhanced eyewear and Augmented Reality (AR) into focus (even though Google said Glass wasn't supposed to be for AR). It wasn’t the first product for AR but it made the biggest splash.

What it did teach us was how an auxiliary device can help us in our everyday lives. From a non-AR perspective, it displayed the usefulness of being able to receive notifications, capture the world around you and send information to others without pulling out a device or using your hands.

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For this use case, many companies have created 'smart watches'. Apple’s Tim Cook took a stab at the glasses, describing them as unnatural because people wear glasses because they have to, not because they want to, whereas placing something on their wrist is more natural. There is no doubt that Cook is right, but it is what Glass showed us that can be possible that no wrist device would be able to accomplish.

A handful of creative companies/developers created apps for Glass that allowed individuals a wealth of information in the world around them just by walking around. Imagine having step-by-step directions without needing to pull out your phone (perfect for the cold weather or riding a bike) or all the background information on a painting in a museum that a small placard on the wall could never provide to you. Even Tesco, in the hours before news of Glass being pulled emerged, came out with the ability for individuals to browse goods, view nutritional facts and add items to their shopping basket hands free just by looking at a product.

All of this is what Glass really showed us could be accomplished and will no doubt be a part of our future. Many other companies have now created enhanced eyewear along with powerful AR-specific devices like the ODG R-7 Glasses. So has Google stopped with the pursuit for enhanced eyewear? Absolutely not!

Google has realised the opportunity and is now putting more than ever into the space, this time to make something that is meant for mainstream consumers. Glass is getting its own division and has tapped Tony Fadell to head the group. Tony is notorious for creating consumer-facing hits like the iPod and Nest. At the same time Google has invested huge sums into the AR space with a lead investment in the $542m round for Magic Leap.

As with any new tech, the beginning phase includes variations of many different players and frameworks. For something to really take hold, there needs to be a common standard, and Google is the company that is capable of taking the lead. Setting standard application frameworks, creating a storefront for a centralised access point and extensive documentation for developers/engineers is where Google thrives.

Standardisation not only opens the consumer adoption rate, but also the number of companies that can produce content for it. For example, marketing teams and media groups will now have a new medium with which they can reach their audiences by creating real-time promotions and deals and/or interactive augmented reality billboards.

With the hopes that Google and Tony will be able to create a cost effective platform for producers, the limit to what can be produced in an augmented environment depends on how creative the group wants to be. The fact that Google Glass in its present form is being shut down is a good sign, and it will mean that even more people and companies will be able to get involved in the future, and an even better experience will be created.

Ryan Jones is CEO and co-founder of Pixbi

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