There won't be a full consumer launch for Google Glass any time soon. Only about a year after offering Google Glass for purchase by developers, Google has announced it will be shutting down sales of the device, as well as its Google Explorer program for developers, on January 19.
But Glass is not dead. The company says this is only the end of the first, experimental phase of the product. The Glass team will be moving out of Google [x], the company's R&D wing, and becoming its own division. Rumors are already circulating of a Google Glass 2.0 and in a Google+ post the company has said that development around the product will continue. “We still have some work to do, but now we’re ready to put on our big kid shoes and learn how to run,” the company said. “...In the meantime, we’re continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready.”
While Google has always shied away from calling Glass an actual finished product, news of the sales pull back shouldn't surprise most. When Glass debuted in 2013 applicants for the Explorer program flooded Google with a plethora of novel ideas for the device. The Twitter hashtag #IfIHadGlass saw proof of concepts for everything from augmented reality games, to fitness apps, to hands-free assistance for doctors and nurses, to even early warning systems for natural disasters.
And some of those results have come to fruition. Beckhoff Automation uses Glass to control industrial robots. Droiders, a Spanish software company, has developed applications for performing augmented surgeries and dental procedures with Glass. And Philips Healthcare has demonstrated Glass as a patient monitoring platform.
But while there have been a lot of exciting developments around Glass, the device just hasn't been able to penetrate the public consciousness in a big way. Spotting a Glass user outside of events like CES and SXSW is like seeing a double rainbow at night. Those “Glass Explorers” by the way? You're not very likely to hear them being called explorers.
Restaurants and bars have banned Google Glass because of (likely justified) fears that people would be using it to secretly record each other. And Google set some legitimate app developers back when it removed Glass's facial recognition capability after public concern that the device could be used to unknowingly invade our privacy. Rather than embracing Glass as an exciting new interactive interface, the general public is more concerned with so-called “Glassholes” acting...well, like Glassholes.
However, there may be still some innovative applications on the horizon. While Google will no longer be fulfilling orders for Google Glass after this week, the company has pledged to continue supporting companies that have already adopted Glass.
How do you feel about this move from Google? What improvements do you think the next version of Glass will need? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Chris Wiltz is the Managing Editor of Design News.