SAN FRANCISCO – The Apple iPhone burst on to the scene like a tsunami, a fully fleshed out next-big-thing with little more than the roar of rumor to warn of its coming. Not so Google’s Project Glass, an effort to create a new category in the slow cooker of community design that is more or less in the open.
With Project Glass, Google aims to leverage a sort of Arduino/DIY ethos in the mobile world. So far they have successfully grabbed more enthusiasm than the modest hardware probably deserves at this point.
From what I hear Glass is good at two things to date. Taking smartphone-class (poor) quality pix and videos and serving as a badge of conspicuous consumption that you are among the trendy nerdy.
Attendees packed the meeting room where four Project Glass developers spoke at last week’s Google I/O, including Proiect Glass software lead Charles Mendis (below). Dozens of developers and wannabes who are paying $1,500 to be part of Google’s “Explorer” program and get a pair of the spectacles were wearing them at the event.
Google’s ambitions are broad. It aims to create the next generation of mobile devices that shift the technology from being the master focus of your life to more of its servant in the background.
I admire Google for having the guts to try doing this as a community effort with all that implies for the potential of public failure. It beats sitting back to see what an Apple might do in a few years and then trying to replicate that in the open source world. That said, that whole Android (iPhone redux) thing has been pretty successful.
My beef is that it is a semi-transparent effort. No one knows the hardware specs yet—where’s the teardown! And Google is mum on the major features and general release plans. So it’s a sort of closed open effort, a do-it-yourself-our-way design.
Google will open the door to 8,000 more users “soon,” a diverse lot of end users chosen from 100,000 who applied in the “If I Had Glass” competition. “We are eager to see what they will do with it,” said one developer.
In this way, both users and developers will essentially be paying to help Google figure out how to make a product out of this project. Just as Microsoft used beta programs for Windows, Google is able to leverage the cool factor of early access into a free team of testers and focus groups.
Wearable computing has been around for a long time. So far no one has made a mainstream product in the category--or tried so hard to do so. If Glass fails, Google will at least have gotten some experience and a bunch of participants will have had some fun.
Now, the juicy bits—what I learned about Glass at Google I/O.