Goodbye Google Glass, we knew you well

Image Credits: Google

Update: Google tells TechCrunch that it remains committed to augmented reality, stating, “We’ve built AR into many Google products for years, and we’ll continue to look for ways to bring new, innovative AR experiences into our product portfolio.”

I know at least one TC employee who is gutted about the inevitable second death of Google Glass. I won’t name them, but I will say that I empathize with seeing a technology giant reverse the truck to run over a beloved piece of technology once again. Is it possible to be twice ahead of your time? Or do you have to admit at some point that yours is an alternate timeline?

Here’s what we know for sure: The world still wasn’t ready for Glass, even after a product makeover and shift in focus. Google reaffirmed plans to end support for its misunderstood piece of AR technology again, writing:

Thank you for more than ten years of innovation and cooperation. As of March 15, 2023, we will no longer be selling Glass Enterprise Edition. We will continue to support Glass Enterprise Edition until September 15, 2023.

Not a completely interrupted decade, of course. Glass celebrated its 10th birthday last month. The original developer version of the head-worn display launched in February 2013, began the Glass Explorers program two months later, and finally opened it to the public in May 2014. Parodies followed. Less than a year later, it announced that former Apple designer and Nest co-founder Tony Fadell was working on a sequel.

Google Glass disappeared briefly in 2015, to thank Explorers for playing along. Rumors of his death were apparently a bit exaggerated – or at least premature. Specifically, Google Glass shifted its focus to the enterprise. Really, that’s another way the product line was ahead of its time. HoloLens was launched a year later from Microsoft, with business at its core. And today, the likes of Meta, HTC, and Magic Leap see the category as a saving grace on its way to AR/VR/MR mainstreaming.

Sounds logical. You can make a lot of money by selling these products to companies in bulk. And IT departments are often willing to spend more on products than the average consumer. A second enterprise edition came in 2019 with some modest upgrades.

The timing and apparent finality of this announcement are interesting. Much of the industry is waiting to see what Apple will bring with its rumored mixed reality headset later this year. Of course, Google is rumored to be working on a new AR product codenamed Project Iris. According to a report from early last year:

Early prototypes being developed at a facility in the San Francisco Bay Area resemble ski goggles and do not require a tethered connection to an external power source.

The product would presumably be a more direct competitor to the current range of XR products, including Apple. Google also has a checkered past with VR products, including Cardboard and Daydream. The last one was discontinued in 2019, the first stopped permanently in 2021.

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