Last Year: Google Glass Backlash Reaches a Fever Pitch
Google’s face computers were first introduced back in April 2013, but it was in 2014 that the backlash against Google Glass reached its apex. Last February, tech writer Sarah Slocum was attacked in a San Francisco bar, in a confrontation with a group of people reportedly incensed that she was recording them. The assailants grabbed Slocum’s wearable from her face, and though she eventually retrieved it, her phone and purse weren’t so lucky.
Then, less than two months later, another Glass-wearing tech writer was targeted. In a Business Insider post, Kyle Russell admitted that wearing the device in the vicinity of an anti-Google protest march “might not have been the best idea.” Someone snatched the wearable, yelling “Glass!” When Russell pursued, the thief tossed the device, destroying it.
Two attacks don’t constitute a trend, and there was no subsequent uptick in Glass-related crime in San Francisco, or elsewhere. But stories of so-called Glassholes showed up throughout the year, and debates over privacy violations polarized public opinion. This is not a case of any publicity being good publicity. As Google continues to work towards a more mainstream version of its product, and hopes are high for devices like the Apple Watch, the future of wearables is still pretty bright. But it might not be bright enough to demand incredibly dorky cyborg spectacles.
This Year: The Wearable Computing Revolution Is In Retreat
Even Google was eventually forced to admit that Glass isn’t a viable product. In January of this year the company announced that it was shutting down the Glass Explorer Program — meaning that new units would no longer be available — and that the technology would now fall under the purview of Tony Fadell, a former Apple exec and the CEO of Nest Labs (which Google purchased in 2014), who will help the company reevaluate what can only be seen as a failed experiment.
That’s bad news for the broader category of wearables, for whom Glass had become the default standard-bearer. And while there are a slew of smartwatches already on the market, they aren’t exactly winning over consumers with their ability to display Tweets on your wrist. The next major attempt at living up to the hype in wearable computing is the Apple Watch, which is expected to arrive in April. The device’s dial-based user interface is intriguing (you twist it to zoom in, rather than struggling to pinch and reverse-pinch the tiny screen), but there’s nothing promising about the fact that the watch starts at $349, as much as $200 more than existing smart watches, without adding much in the way of functionality. Wearables are still a draw for fitness trackers and overzealous early adopters, but devices that are truly versatile and powerful don’t seem any nearer to mainstream adoption this year.
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