Google Glass is poised to make a comeback: Massimo Vian, the CEO of Italian eyewear maker Luxottica, has announced that his company is working with Google on a new version of the wearable computing device. Although Vian did not say when the new Glass would come out, his statement confirms that the two companies are still working together, as originally announced in March 2014.
A second bite at the apple
The first version of Google Glass, dubbed Explorer, was withdrawn in January after disappointing sales and controversy over the device’s looks, cost, and perceived elitism by certain users. It was moved out of the Google X research lab and placed under the supervision of Tony Fadell, of Nest Labs, with Google noting that it was continuing its Glass at Work program to find industrial and enterprise uses for the device. In January, Google said the next version would be cheaper, with improved battery life, sound quality, and display.
The deal with Luxottica, which owns premium eyeglass brands Oakley and Ray-Ban, will help Glass address one of those criticisms, by providing a device that consumers outside of the tech industry would be more likely to want to wear. Also, positioning a tech device as a premium or luxury item, with high-grade materials and design, appears to have worked for the Apple Watch, which is estimated to have sold as many as 1 million units in its first preorder weekend.
Other smartwatch manufacturers are expected to do the same with their products, and it might be the key Google needs to generate some buzz among users. Other examples of partnerships between tech firms and luxury or premium brands are Misfit’s integration of its fitness trackers with Swarovsky jewelry, and Qualcomm’s partnership with car manufacturer Mini to create augmented-reality driving goggles.
However, industrial and enterprise applications are likely to remain the main use cases for the device for the near future. The ability for users to show others what they’re seeing or to model 3D objects will aid in training and maintenance functions, and Google has partnered with hospitals to provide surgeons with detailed patient information while in operating theaters.
Improved aesthetics will be a key component of bringing Glass back to consumers, but it’s just as important to show users what they can use it for. And, as the above examples show, having the support of major fashion brands will also be an important factor.
Augmented Reality: Edging Toward Mass Awareness, TE0001-000888 (October 2014)
“Google ends Glass Explorer program, but it still has a potential niche in wearables,” TE0004-001011 (January 2015)
Francesco Radicati, Senior Analyst, Digital Services