I believe Google is silently killing Glass

I am starting to believe that Google is silently killing Glass for lack of success, rumors on The Interwebs Inc. are starting to confirm it, so I too am phasing out of my Glass project and moving on to Augmented Reality. I call Glass the Palm Pilot of 2013.


For those of you whom remember 1996 when Palm Pilot was released, it instantly became the new must-have gadget in geek universe, it was the future right now in a world of phone bricks…except it never took off, it came too early for its time, it was clunky, it needed to be manually connected, and it suffered from the what-can-I-do-with-it syndrome. A small faction of resistant users kept it afloat for many years, and then it was strolled and bounced around from bad to worse investment at HP to the surprise of most.

After that, phone manufacturers continued to fool us with so-called innovations for another decade.

And then came the iPhone in 2007, it blew everybody away, and it secured smartphones as obvious and unquestionable in every category.

The rumors

The Intertubes (TM) is starting to confirm the rumors that Glass is going away. I heard from a friend that a friend who works at Google said Google had asked some of their employees to return their Glass devices and had assigned them to other projects. Then, at the I/O conference this year Google played radio silence on Glass, no BMX, no parachutes, not even a peep. Then, the video for the release of Glass in London got a whopping 7k hits when I watched it, and now it is stalling at 300k hits. Then, my Google Searches for my Glass software development questions seem to return less and less hits. Finally, another friend of other Googler friends said the topic of Glass shutting down came up during a conversation. That is definitely solid proof, don’t you think?

My experience

I can speak of my own experience with Glass. I originally bought Glass because I was excited to finally try software development for wearable computers and Augmented Reality. I grew up reading in the 90s about the pioneers of the MIT Media Lab, Steve Mann and Thad Starner of the Wearable Computing Group and Hiroshi Ishii of the Tangible Media Group, and Professor Steven Feiner of Columbia University with his research on Augmented Reality. It seemed Glass was set to be the first of such devices ready for the mass market.

I have had Glass for 9 months, and from this gestation emerged the reality. I sadly came to admit I never wear it, it stays in the drawer. Even since October I continue to feel like Robocop with a thing on my face, it changes my behavior as if everybody was looking suspiciously at me, and that makes me uncomfortable. I get many positive reactions from people whom are curious of this novelty. Mostly I get too many negative reactions from Glass haters misconceiving it as an always on surveillance camera with face recognition. False. I sympathize with them because like them I value the protection of our freedom and privacy, and then I cannot help to satirically warn them I can turn on the X-ray vision. Then, in May at the Augmented World Expo 2014, I understood clearly that everybody had tried Glass for Augmented Reality and everybody gave up; in hindsight, they all admitted Glass had never been intended for Augmented Reality. Reality check. It changed my view of Glass as a wearable device. I kept Glass for software development. And then the technical problems. The battery exhausts too quickly, the device heats up and slows down to a freeze, and it is limited in terms of applications. And I am not that good of an Android developer to squeeze the juice out of it. Now I am using it just for pictures and videos, it is excellent for point-of-view shots. And so it has become the most expensive camera I possess.

I am still glad I had Glass, I killed a fever of want, I boosted my software development skills in the process, I anchored my confidence that I can still implement new technologies at 37, and I confirm wearable devices and Augmented Reality are here.

As for my smartphone, I have this weird dream-like feeling of needing to wrap the phone around me like a cloth, dive jump inside the screen and swim in a giant world of digital information. That is my need for the holodeck and Glass does not come close to an inch of fulfilling that.

What’s next

It is a fact wearable computers are here to stay. It just will not be with Glass. Glass was a milestone in history that will remain in the archives as one of the first general wearable devices. Glass also helped spawn the industry of eyewear, and there are valid niche markets where Glass-like devices fit perfectly, for example this safety device for motorcyclists from FUSAR Technologies that displays a rear camera inside the helmet.

I feel sad for Thad Starner and Sergey Brin whom really believed in Glass; they have other awesomeness in their sleeves. Steve Mann does not seem to be affected as he is doing great sensitizing us to sousveillance and working for META. If I project the analogy of the Palm versus iPhone history to Glass, we will see the natural heir of Glass, the obvious leader of the wearable computers, in 11 years from now, in 2025. Yikes! I say it will be a holodeck, light-guided into the eye, mixed with the Minority Report of John Underkoffler (he was one of Hiroshi’s students), and Tony Stark’s helmet of Iron Man.

Meanwhile, I think Google will push full throttle with Project Tango, after all, anything that Johnny Chung Lee touches becomes a hit. Tango is a dream for Augmented Reality enthusiasts. Also, I keep an eye on castAR and Projective Augmented Reality, and I am eagerly awaiting for their first device; Jeri Ellsworth is a self-taught pioneer with many followers that does not come from academics.

As for me, I will finish my Glass proof-of-concept to honor the commitments I made with my partners, and after that I will learn to implement Augmented Reality with Metaio SDK, Unity3DQualcomm Vuforia, and OpenCV.

Order picking using a head-up display (HUD) – Posted by Thad Starner

“University of Bremen student Hannes Baumann demonstrates using a wearable computer for order picking. 750,000 warehouses worldwide distribute approximately $1 US trillion in goods, and order picking accounts for about 60% of the total operational costs of a warehouse. Using a head-up display to guide order picking virtually eliminates errors and is significantly faster than paper or audio based methods. HUD-based order picking is also less expensive and more flexible than many other automated picking techniques. Hannes’s thesis work was supported by the SiWear project and advised by Professor Thad Starner and Professor Michael Lawo.” — Thad Starner, Published on Sep 7, 2012

Augmented World Expo 2014

Last week I attended the Augmented World Expo (AWE) 2014 [1] in Santa Clara, one of the world conferences on Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Augmented Virtuality [2], and smart glasses [3]. There, I saw Steve Feiner, pioneer of Augmented Reality in the 1990s [4] [5], Professor of computer science and director of the Computer Graphics and User Interfaces Lab at Columbia University, and adviser for Space Glasses at Meta [6]. I also saw Mark Billinghurst, director of the HITLab in New Zealand [7] whom created the AR Toolkit which I later used (JavaScript port) for my prototype M3 + Augmented Reality. I didn’t see Steve Mann, also adviser for Meta, and one of the pioneers of the Wearable Computing group in the Media Lab in the 1980s [8]; Thad Starner was in that group and later went on to design Google Glass for Sergey Brin [9]. I got inspiration from their work when I was younger, and I was excited to see them.

I went to the conference to learn more about the future. I’m currently working on a personal project to develop an app to display picking lists in Google Glass with data from Infor M3.

Here are some pictures of me at the conference, dreaming my vision of future picking lists 😉

1 2 AWE2014