The next Google Glass will probably look nothing like the first one
Google Glass, once the darling of advanced wearable computing, is now an inadvertently funny cautionary tale about how not to develop a product — at least, not one so ambitious and controversial.
That's the picture Nick Bilton paints in his New York Times overview of the project, which went from the whiteboards at Google X to the semi-exclusive and mishandled "Explorer program" that officially ended last month when Google put Nest inventor Tony Fadell in charge of Glass. It's also not news, but this is: Bilton reports that a source close to Fadell says Glass will get a complete redesign for its next version:
Several people with knowledge of Mr. Fadell’s plans for Glass said he was going to redesign the product from scratch and would not release it until it was complete. “There will be no public experimentation,” one adviser to Mr. Fadell said. “Tony is a product guy and he’s not going to release something until it’s perfect.”
Critics of Glass (including myself) have advocated a redesign for a long time. When Google settled on the original design for Glass, it decided to make the product stand out. The company did so for multiple reasons, but one of the main ones was to avoid accusations of spyware:
An ostentatious design meant Glass was borderline useless as a covert recording device.
While that may have been true, the decision ended up backfiring. With the camera in plain view, the first question most Glass Explorers got from observers was, "Are you recording me?" The design, far from diffusing the issue, actually exacerbated it; many people's abstract fears about technology dissolving privacy suddenly had a real-world avatar. Occasionally, violence ensued.
If Google is redesigning Glass "from scratch," it invites a host of questions: Will the new version look more like a pair of glasses? Will Luxottica, which signed a deal with Google last year to produce Ray-Ban and Oakley versions for Glass, play a part? Or will Fadell go back to concept, and rethink exactly what problem the wearable is supposed to solve, possibly leading to something entirely different?
Whatever the ultimate answers are, it's encouraging that Google is considering them; 2015 could be the year Glass gets its polish back.