Google Glass, thank you for being ahead of your time
Every well-known brand makes at least one earth-shattering misstep during its history. Apple had the Lisa, Lucasfilm has Jar Jar Binks, The New York Yankees have Alex Rodriguez, and PepsiCo has Crystal Pepsi. Google’s albatross, at least until delivery drones start crashing into people’s homes, is Google Glass.
Glass might go down as one of the biggest miscalculations by the Internet-age’s most ubiquitous companies. Besides the obvious privacy concerns raised by Glass user’s pretty much wearing a face camera at all times, the trouble with Google Glass goes far beyond the creepiness factor and how stupid Glassholes looked in the clunky device.
One major problem was that Google Glasses never had any software that made you say, “OK, I see how this could be cool, or something that makes my life better." Yeah, it was cool that you could use Google Glass to translate a sign into any language with the Word Lens app, but because of Google Glass's unresponsive, awkward reactive interface, it would take less time to pull out a mobile phone to use the same applications.
One time, I was given a chance to try Google Glass and one of the use cases for how great the device was to use Glass to gauge the arc of your shot while playing basketball. Never mind that you'd get your ass kicked for ever stepping on a basketball court wearing a pair of the glasses, but, knowing the arc of a basketball shot is quite possibly a more useless piece of information than knowing the birthdates of every member of the Kardashian family.
Google Glass never had a killer app, and that is why it has been relegated to obscurity like Microsoft's Zune MP3 player and anything Yahoo decides to do from this point on. (To be fair, Google Glass has been very useful in the medical industry where it is used to record surgeries, but is too niche to gain any real traction.)
And yet, if a recent report by Digi-Capital on the future of augmented and virtual reality is to be believed,Google Glass may have been more a miscalculation of timing than of product.
The report is somewhat suspect, acknowledging at one point that a "pure quantitative analysis of the VR/AR market today is challenging, because there’s not much of a track record to analyze." But that doesn't stop Digi-Capital from prophesying that virtual reality and augmented reality industry could "grow new markets and cannibalize existing ones after the market really gets going from next year."
And the numbers get even crazier from there. Digi-Capital "forecasts" that the AR/VR industry has the chance to hit $150 billion in revenue by 2020. Ok then.
To be fair, it seems Digi-Capital is fond of over-valuing things given they charge $499 for access to the report. But, as they see it, the augmented reality market will rely on a hardware boom similar to that of mobile phones making it a $120 billion industry and virtual reality will account for $30 billion in revenue, mostly from 3D gaming.
Ridiculous numbers aside, there are signs that both augmented reality and virtual reality have a promising future, with companies like Oculus and Magic Leap being gobbled up by the Facebook and Google, respectively. But what that future looks like exactly, is very tough to say.
It would have been interesting to see how Google Glass would have been embraced a couple years down the road where it seems augmented reality and virtual reality will be far more advanced than they are now -- albeit probably not a $150 billion business.
Due to the failure of the device, whoever designs the next hardware with augmented reality in mind will take into account the lessons learned from the Google Glass debacle. I guess we need to tip our hat, then, to Google for jumping the gun and for sparing us, for now, from a world where Google Glass is actually popular and we are constantly surrounded by assholes with computers on their faces.