Despite Google’s enormous investments and repeated promises of support, it should come as no surprise that the company has discontinued selling its Google Glass headsets. Ongoing public antipathy for the devices' privacy implications, shaky performance, astronomical prices, and inept marketing turned the trailblazing device into a laughingstock, and stopping a program was merely a matter of acknowledging the obvious.
But while Google has discontinued the Explorer program used to distribute Glass, it is apparently still selling them to corporate customers, and vows that it will return with new, improved versions of Glass "when they're ready."
That's great, but unless Google is able to significantly shake things up, the new version of Glass won't be any more successful than the last. Here are 10 things Google needs to do to give the next version of Google Glass a chance.
1. Market Glass like Go Pro
People hate Google Glass for being nerdy and invasive, but they love Go Pro cameras—which also record everything the wearer is doing—as a way to record their epic outdoorsy achievements. Google needs to make Glass seem like a fun, active lifestyle accessory, something that the cool kids would use, not just the AV Club.
2. Add a bigger, higher-resolution screen
Google Glass' tiny 640x480 display simply isn't good enough to display more than a small amount of information, especially compared to a cellphone or even a smartwatch. To be truly useful, Glass needs to be able to at least be as readable and informative as a fitness band. Heck, you should be able to watch videos on it and actually see what you're looking at. Come to think of it, dual screens and 3D effects would be nice, too.
3. Include a big honking light that indicates it’s recording
Recording without permission and notice was an ill-advised move. Glass needs to make it glaringly, unmistakably obvious when it's taking a picture or capturing a video. Anything less is social suicide.
4. Deliver faster performance and all-day battery life
Combining both of these improvements won't be easy, but if Glass is to be truly useful and accepted, you should be able to put it on in the morning and have it work all day without recharging. And it needs to work fast and smoothly enough that wearers don't have to keep fiddling with it all the time.
5. Make it durable and secure enough to wearing during vigorous activities and sports
Glass needs accessories that let users wear it while they're running around doing all the things they like to, without worrying that the super-spendy specs will fall off and break at any moment.
6. Include a higher-res camera
Modern smartphones take incredibly good pictures and videos. Google Glass, not so much. If I'm going to wear a camera on my face, I want it to photos and videos that are at least as good as those taken with my smartphone.
7. Boost the sound quality
There's no excuse for any headset not to sound at least as good as top-quality smartphone earbuds. At a minimum, wearing Glass should give you all the functionality of a Bluetooth headset and headphones.
8. Fully integrate with regular glasses and/or support prescription lenses
It may be a stereotype, but the kind of early adopters most interested in Google Glass often wear corrective lenses, which frankly didn't work very well with Glass. Later versions made an attempt to work around this issue, but the next version of Glass needs to get the glasses issue right from the start.
9. Incorporate designs by accomplished eyewear designers
Let's face it – even the coolest models looked like complete dorks while wearing Glass. And normal, somewhat dorky people looked like they just stepped out of a second-rate science fiction convention. The next version of Glass needs to look like something you'd be willing to put on your face even it couldn't connect to the Internet. And it wouldn't hurt if it came in enough different sizes, shapes, colors, and materials that a majority of people could find something suitable.
10. Cost less than $500
Yes, I know that so far Glass has been marketed to developers, not consumers, which Google said justified that whopping $1,500 price tag. I'm not buying it, literally. If Google wants people to get used to Glass, it needs to make the devices cheap enough so that the only people who can afford them are rich techies. $500 still ain't cheap, but that seems like the tipping point for the possibility of mass acceptance.
I haven't even touched on the software and apps side of things (perhaps I'll come back to that in a future post), but clearly, meeting all these conditions will be a very tall order. I actually don't think it's possible for Google to deliver this entire list in the next version of Glass. But some of them would be fairly straightforward to achieve if Google made them a priority, while the others should be treated as stretch goals.
The key point is that radical improvements are necessary here. I've always believed in the concept of Google Glass, even as I was disappointed by the reality. If we're going to get closer to realizing that promise, Google needs to up its game big time.