On this day eight years ago, the first consumers got to try Google Glass.
The Google Glass hype train starting chugging with the announcement of “Project Glass” in April 2012, a full year before the first deliveries.
In hindsight, it isn’t surprising that the public got stoked quickly… but it’s a little surprising to recount the big names who wanted a piece of the Glaction even when it didn’t totally make sense.
As examples, two of Glass’s highest early honors:
1️⃣ Time named Glass a Best Invention of 2012, even though people weren’t entirely sure what need this invention served (and nobody could figure it out because it didn’t yet publicly exist to be played with).
2️⃣ Diane von Furstenburg accessorized her models with Glass in spring 2013’s New York Fashion Week, even though… just… no.
She had her reasons, but… nope. Still not ready.
To be fair, there is a sense in which “fashion” is an appropriate choice of word for the Google Glass fever: it seemed like The Future in ways that few other inventions have, and everyone wants to be first to The Future.
Google certainly did their part to make things theatrical. At Google’s June 2012 I/O conference—two months after the Project Glass announcement—Sergey Brin ran onstage and interrupted some remarks on Google+ (which failed anyway) for an epic live demo of Google Glass.
By “epic,” we mean that a bunch of Glass-equipped BASE jumpers threw themselves out of a blimp above San Fran and landed on the Moscone Center where the conference was being held… while everyone inside was seeing their POV in real-time.
This was immediately followed by the announcement that pre-orders would only be open to conference attendees, and only during the conference, which sold about 2,000 Glass pre-orders.
Those customers then had the exclusive privilege of being dubbed the world’s biggest nerds first “Glass Explorers,” Google’s title for the first public Glass users. Google later wound up quintupling the total pool of Explorers with their #ifihadglass contest in February 2013, but they did fulfill all of the conference pre-orders first.
And that’s how we arrive at today’s date eight years ago: it’s when the first Glass(es) hit the faces of the first Explorers who pre-ordered at the I/O conference. Everyone else started getting their Glass(es) about a month later, and then public playtime had officially begun.
So how’d it go? Well… not awesome.
On the plus side, Glass survived the shower. Which was 100% necessary.
On the minus side, the first units suffered from short battery life and stuttering software—both serious problems for a wearable computer.
Making things worse, the public’s first encounters with Glass weren’t entirely friendly; the creeping suspicion that Glass users were recording everything caused some movie theaters and restaurants to ban them. Add to that the Explorers’ occasional haughtiness and/or obliviousness and, aha, someone coined a term for them: Glassholes.
How will history (probably) judge Google Glass? As a cool idea just a bit too far ahead of its time.
In the eight years since, the public has taken some baby steps that might ease the discomfort they first felt about Glass—for example, smart watches (which help us believe in wearable tech) and wireless earbuds (which normalize behaviors like voluntary deafness and randomly talking to yourself in public). It also helps that scientists have put Google Glass to some new and helpful uses, like behavioral therapy for kids with autism.
Which brings us to the present day—where Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon (among others) are working on their own versions of essentially the same Glass idea. This next time, the public and the tech might actually be ready… Zuck certainly thinks so.
What’s happened with Google, you Glassk? Well, they saw public interest nose-diving and private-sector interest surging at the same time, so they took the hint and shifted.
After all, there’s plenty of money selling to companies like Boeing and DHL, and the tech will evolve wherever people find it uniquely useful.
Hard to blame Google for going where they’re wanted. 🤷🏼♂️