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In what many see as a surprise, it appears that the future of the much heralded Google Glass may be uncertain, even before the product is rolled out to a mass audience. The company co-founder Sergey Brin, who is the head of the project, and was known to be inseparable from his pair, was recently observed without them at a high-profile public event in Silicon Valley on Sunday Nov 9. Reporters were told that they were left in the car, but the omission, which may be much more than coincidence has occurred at the same time as reports of desertion by many of the developers and some of the consumers.
Users appear to be losing interest in the beta test version of the units, which are priced at $1500, and the roll out of Glass to the wider consumer market has been postponed. Many of the developers say that the prospects for Google Glass as a widely adopted consumer product are dim. Even though there may be a few specialized practical applications, it is no longer seen as a hit with consumers.
Google Glass, which features a Mini-camera, and a micro-computer, along with an embedded microprocessor and viewing screen on the frame of eyeglasses is capable of recording and streaming both audio and video signals over the Internet. It has been used to stream live images of surgical procedures from operating rooms, and there may be lower priced competitive units available, but the appeal was the fact that it was an open source project to which other developers were able to contribute. However, many of the developers appear to have abandoned projects aimed at consumers, or have switched to the enterprise markets.
Although many of the big names, such as OpenTable and Facebook are still involved with developing apps for Google Glass, the app market is contracting as many of the major participants including director of electrical engineering, Adrian Wong, and lead developer Babak Parviz, have already left the company. Interestingly and quietly, a website that was maintained by a consortium that was responsible for funding has also been removed. The consortium, which was developed by venture capitalists, Andreessen Horowitz, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in collaboration with the Google venture arm, has issued no statement, but visitors are redirected to Google Glass website.
Despite the speculation and concerns that the allure of Google Glass may have faded even before the product is rolled, Google appears to be remaining committed, and there is still a huge team of engineers and executives involved with it. The head of the Glass Business Operations, Chris O’Neill acknowledges that consumer adaptation of new technology is not a rapid process, and the company remains committed to the consumer market, but will not launch until the product is determined to be fully market –ready.
The original plans for the first product to be developed by the secretive Google X, laboratories, was, according to Brin, projected an introduction in 2014, however it now appears that it may be sometime in 2015, if Google Glass is ever introduced.
The signs that the enthusiasm with Glass was fading, may have been building for some time as there are now units on EBay being sold at half of the listed price.
By Dale Davidson