Google unveiled its Glass, also known as a smart pair of glasses or smart headset (depending on who you ask), in early 2013. Over a span of six months, the futuristic tech made quite the splash; TIME magazine named Glass one of its best inventions of 2012, even though they didn’t go public until 2013, and after its public release, Vogue’s September issue featured a 12-page spread of Google Glass.
However, in less than a year since Google Glass’ debut, it got a lot of bad press. First, a wearer was pulled over for wearing Glass while driving, then another was arrested for wearing them in a movie theatre. Then, the cherry on top: A woman claimed to be harassed at a California bar, spurring many local businesses to ban the tech from their establishments.
Google then continued to deal with a host of software bugs, finally releasing a new version, which was promptly banned at auditoriums and movie theatres across the UK. By January 2015, Google ended the Glass program before even releasing its newest versions to the public. Today, Google Glass is still available — but only for enterprises.
In short, Google doesn’t have many failures these days, but Google Glass was by far its largest and most public blunder.
Is Google Glass Coming Back?
Actually, it never left.
Despite going down in bright, roaring flames to the general consumer base, the futuristic lenses gained a strong foothold in logistics and manufacturing applications with its Enterprise launch back in 2017. Google also acquired a smart glasses maker, North, in July, giving enthusiasts just a taste of hope that Glass could be making a return to the consumer market, but there were no further updates.
Google is also no longer the only player in the headset wearables market. AR and VR headsets are a not-so-distant cousin of Google Glass, and reports emerged in July that Apple is working on a set of lenses of its own. However, Apple is still apparently two years away from being ready to send its lenses and headset into mass production, which seems like 10 years in the world of tech.
Although the product hasn’t been announced, or even hinted at, CEO Tim Cook openly talked about AR’s potential in Apple’s first-quarter earnings call in January.
“This is the reason I’m so excited about it,” Cook said. “You rarely have a new technology where business and consumer both see it as key to them. So I think the answer is that’s the reason that I think it’s going to pervade your life.”
Who Else Is Working on Headsets in the Shadows?
In May, Bloomberg reported that former HTC “boss” and tech entrepreneur Peter Chou wants in on the headset market. According to the outlet, Chou is already in the development process for XRSpace, a 5G-capable VR headset that’s been in development for three years. XRSpace is also reportedly building an entire VR platform for its upcoming headset, including services, games, and social activities for consumers.
Although the gadget is still months away from a public release, Chou told Bloomberg that 40 to 50 apps have already signed up for his platform. Although 40-50 apps are just a drop in the bucket of Apple’s 2.2 million apps in its app store, it’s already a step ahead of Google Glass on the consumer level. About six months before its consumer demise, Reuters reported that developers had abandoned their Google Glass apps.
Chou’s 5G headset also comes ahead of widespread adoption of 5G. Some critics would call it premature, but Chou said today’s smartphone experience is “primitive” because it fails to capture the full range of human emotion.
“5G is coming,” Chou said. “It feels like 2002, when we first had 2.5G data networks and the first smartphones like the O2 XDA started coming out.”
Are Headsets Soon to Be the Next iPhone?