Dear Ex Google Glass Explorers: Don’t Give Up Yet

Written by Eric Finkenbiner

In the end, third-party developers let down Google Glass, says our senior tech editor Eric Finkenbiner. But the revolution isn’t over yet. Here’s why.

aNewDomain — It seems like only yesterday I was attempting to scratch my eyes out at the sight of tech pundit Robert Scoble in the shower with his Google Glass. But the fun is over now that Google is ending the Google Glass Explorer program. I’ve been a part of that for over a year.

With the end in sight, I’m sure other Explorers are also wondering to themselves whether the experience was worth the price of admission.

Frankly, it wasn’t.

But I don’t dislike Google Glass or regret my participation. I don’t side with my colleague John C. Dvorak at all on this. Just the opposite. And I still think that Google Glass has a future. Here’s why.

It’s true that Glass is not for everyone. but it still enriched the lives of those who used it. In a piece I wrote almost exactly a year ago I talked about how having Google Glass completely changed the way that I experienced Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples in Cambodia.

Video: Eric Finkenbiner on Google Glass for aNewDomain

Even today when I watch the videos and look at the photos I took with Glass, I see the immediate value. It wasn’t just novelty. My images help me more easily and immediately remember how it felt to be there.  Some of this is attributable to the technology – the camera mounted at eye level and the way that the video bobs and jerks with the movement of my head are a big part of it.

Video: Eric Finkenbiner on Google Glass for aNewDomain

But the main thing that kept these memories so vivid is the fact that I experienced them directly. I didn’t do it through the LCD screen of a camera or smartphone.

And that, more than anything perhaps, is the genius behind Google Glass.

Google did some cool things with Glass. Most developers didn’t.

The integration of first party apps such as Field Trip aided in the discovery of interesting sights and experiences while at the same time providing context as to the significance of the place or thing being discovered.  The voice recognition was also spot on each and every time I used it.  This made for painless email conversations even when I was running on the treadmill.

But normal developers didn’t do anything groundbreaking on the device.  I dreamed of a future Glass world akin to Daemon or Freedom™ with overlays of virtual worlds on top of the physical one.  Instead I was merely barraged by notifications that were easier to interact with on my phone.  I soon discovered that when I was not on vacation, the daily use of Glass felt unnecessary and somewhat depressing.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association used Glass to connect new mothers with ABA experts who could answer questions and also gave these mothers access to instructional videos which they could watch through the small prism projector.

The World Wildlife Fund used Glass in Nepal to allow researchers to capture data regarding the movements of endangered species in the Chitwan National Park.

All for naught? Not quite

If you’re thinking that all the above examples could have used tablets, smartphones, or some other piece of technology to achieve the same result, that’s correct. That’s the challenge Google needs to overcome.

While the evolution of Glass from a pair of goggles with a Galaxy Nexus strapped on the side to the sleeker yet still bulky Explorer edition has been quite an achievement, I can’t help but feel as if it were all for naught.

The Glass project has potential and I hope that Google does not simply make it disappear in the same way that Google Wave was simply absorbed into other products. That would be a shame.

It’s a good bet that Google Glass in new iterations could even become a GoPro killer or revolutionize the medical industry. If that happens, we can all look back on the past two years of the Explorer program as the first steps toward something much more significant rather than a flash in the pan.

I know I will.

For aNewDomain, I’m Eric Finkenbiner.

Image at top of Eric Finkenbiner wearing Google Glass: Eric Finkenbiner for aNewDomain

Below, Ziff exec Michael Miller wearing Google Glass at the aNewDomain booth at CES 2014.

Image credit: Gina Smith for aNewDomain

Feature image of tech pundit and Glass supporter Robert Scoble: Maryam Scoble