Babak Parviz, one of the fathers of Google's Project Glass, left the company for Amazon this week, presumably spreading the DNA of wearables. Meanwhile, Android Wear continues to gain buzz if not market traction yet.
Two posts set Google+ a-twitter about Android Wear this week. Babak Parviz, a pioneer and public face for Project Glass, left Google for Amazon. (You made need to register at Google+ to see this link.) Separately, in a less high-profile Google+ posting of a video of an Android Wear watch, developers piled on a discussion about the future of wearables.
I first met Babak when he spoke at a late night panel at the deep tech event the International Solid State Circuits Conference. At the time he tipped Google's plans to start a broad beta of the glasses with software developers.
I heard him again months later in a talk at the equally deep tech Hot Chips program, telling the history of project Glass and singing its praises. I felt honored Babak actually returned my email the other day, albeit only to deny my request for an exit interview with him.
Babak and Amazon are keeping quiet about why he left or what he will do at the e-commerce giant. More may be revealed when he speaks about wearables in San Diego in August, probably his first public talk after joining Amazon.
Project Glass has grown in size and momentum such that it will do just fine without Babak. I suspect he will spread some of the wearable DNA to Amazon, which tends to focus on practical, mainstream products rather than the sort of bleeding edge experiments Project Glass was when Google launched it.
Much of the excitement around glasses has shifted these days to Google archrival Facebook after its $2 billion investment in the Oculus Rift. Indeed, even in my brief encounters at trade events (Babak let me wear his specs for a minute at ISSCC), it's clear the virtual reality goggles are a whole lot more fun than the more practical Google spectacles -- and both felt more than a little kludgey.
Frankly, it's still early days for wearables. When one developer posted a video (below) of his first experience typing on an Android Wear watch it spawned a feeding frenzy of comments.
Many commenters shared the developer's excitement about being present at the creation of this new category. Some were quick to chime in that Android Wear is optimized for voice interfaces, not keyboards -- thank God, given I am still trying to get the hang of typing on my iPhone 4.
There's a mix of excitement and skepticism even among backers. I thought one Google developer hit the nail on the head with the following comment in the thread:
At this point, merely several weeks into Android Wear's lifetime, I'm not ready yet to say "some apps are just not practical"... even if I suspect that plenty of apps are just not practical. I want crazy devs to try crazy stuff anyway. 99% of it will suck, and will disappear. 1% of it will be awesome, and will make my life better. Hooray for the 1%!
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times