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Why I'm still excited about Google Glass

Mike Elgan | Jan. 20, 2015
Now that Google has taken Glass off the market, things are about to get truly interesting.

In reality, Google Glass was the worst spy camera ever invented. Unlike every smartphone, spy catalog product, camera watch or home security camera, anyone near a Glass user can see clearly whether the camera is on or not, and also exactly where the camera is pointed. If you're within 10 feet of a Glass user, you can even see a thumbnail of the picture or video on the outside of Glass.

The second slam against Glass was that it was clunky and awkward. But the truth is that Google Glass represents a massive leap forward toward elegance and minimalism in wearable computing.

Just look at the career of Thad Starner, who is a technical lead and manager on the Google Glass project. Starner has been working on this kind of wearable computing for two decades. If you want to see what came before Google Glass, just check out this interview of Starner by actor Alan Alda, filmed in 1996. Or check out this picture of wearable computing projects on the MIT wearable computing page.

Wearable computing prototypes at universities across the world, which had a fraction of the capabilities of Google Glass, have for years involved backpacks, helmets, goggles and other comparatively bulky and awkward components.

Yes, a small piece of plastic over the right eye and curving around to the side of the head is more "stuff" on someone's face than we're used to. But compared to what came before, it's minimal and elegant.

I believe that with further aggressive design and development, especially under the capable stewardship of Tony Fadell -- who has proved both with the iPod and the Nest that he understands simplicity. (No, Nick Bilton, the Tony Fadell version of glass won't look like this.)

The truth is that eyeglasses and sunglasses are uniquely ideal platforms for zapping contextual information into the eye or eyes. Google Glass and similar products are absolutely going to happen and we're all going to love them.

Given all the problems Google has solved to create Glass, the two remaining issues necessary for market success -- the privacy issue and the social acceptability issue -- are trivial, and Google will probably solve them in the next iteration or two.

So as we say goodbye to the Google Glass Explorer program, and the Glass project at Google X labs, we can look forward to seeing the first versions of Google Glass, the consumer electronics product.

I can't wait.


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