Heads up: Google Glass may be coming back

Google is reportedly rethinking everything about its failed augmented reality headset. That's a good thing, but it may not be enough.

Google Glass coming back
REUTERS/Stephen Lam

According to reports last week in the Financial Times, Google really is working on a new version of Glass, the now-cancelled wearable device that became the poster child for clueless tech products creeping out normal people.

Google has claimed that it would continue working on the device since it stopped selling it in January, but until now there's been no word on what the company had in mind. Was it hoping to make a few tweaks and come up with a new marketing campaign and hope that would be enough for a successful re-launch? Or was the plan to completely scrap Google Glass as is and develop a new product based on what it learned from the first attempt?

FT.com reported on what Tony Fadell, the head of Google acquisition Nest who's now in charge of the Google Glass project, said earlier this month at a Google Zeitgeist conference in the UK. In his first public comments since taking charge of Glass, he indicated that the company has at least figured out that the device cannot re-enter the market as it was.

"We've decided to go and look at every detail, have no sacred cows and figure out the way forward," Fadell said.

Google Glass needs big changes

Frankly, that's the absolute minimum required to resurrect this product. As I've stated repeatedly, I see enormous potential in products like Google Glass, but the current implementations simply don't live up to the promise.

It seems that Fadell—and perhaps Google—finally see that. If so, here's what Fadell needs to do:

First, dump the Google Glass name, design, and market positioning. Glass was a marketing disaster of catastrophic proportions. Business schools should be using it as a case study in what not to do for decades to come. Whatever Google comes up with next, it should stay as far away from the Google Glass legacy as possible. No matter how good it is, if it reeks of the Glass "explorers," popularly dubbed "Glassholes" by the public, the project is doomed before it starts.

See also: How Google Glass set wearable computing back 10 years

Second, Google needs to fix the product's actual problems. Earlier this year, I listed the 10 things the next version of Google Glass must have, and I still believe that all these changes are critical. But they all boil down to improving the experience for users and reducing the anxiety of people in the presence of the actual user.

For the user, that means vastly improving performance so using the device doesn't feel like test of the slow-motion video feature on your smartphone. For everyone else, it's about making it unmistakably obvious what the user is doing, what they may be recording, and whether they're invading anyone's privacy.

Oh, and Fadell may want to make the thing look less weird, too.

If he can do all that, he's an amazing genius. And he may actually succeed in reviving Google Glass. As long as he knows enough not to call it that.

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