Taking Care of Business -- Google Glass Returns
Andrew Wheeler posted on July 31, 2017 | 3045 views

Google Glass is infamous for providing a perfect example of a product launch that revealed a unique kind of tone-deafness toward consumers. In this particular case, the rejected effort came from monster advertising company Alphabet (Google and X’s parent company).

When Google Glass was originally released via a team of parachutists at an expensive launch event, consumers and culture in general rejected Google Glass with a resounding one-word criticism: Glasshole. Google had to release information about how not to be a Glasshole. (Image courtesy of X.)
When Google Glass was originally released via a team of parachutists at an expensive launch event, consumers and culture in general rejected Google Glass with a resounding one-word criticism: Glasshole. Google had to release information about how not to be a Glasshole. (Image courtesy of X.)

The hardware product was a computing headset that was meant to take the place of smartphone computers. It was widely panned by consumers and independent media organizations as a gross violation of some abstract technological saturation point—a theoretical cultural threshold that consumers control. It was a reminder of the consumer’s ROI parameters of taste versus convenience. They control the comfort zone in terms of deciding when the design and intent of innovative technology encroaches too far past the lines of personal preference drawn out by consumers of smartphone computers over the last decade.

Smartphones did not have the burden or stigma of eyewear. Think about it: People pay ophthalmologist a great deal of money collectively to perform corrective eye surgeries every year. Not so fast, said the consumer. 

Computing was not ready to move from the smartphone computer to a headset computer. If you think about it, during the last decade of smartphone adoption, computing moved with rapid speed and subtlety into the word “phone,” replacing it with “sophisticated computer.” But people don’t quite see their “phones” as “computers,” even though smartphones are miniaturized versions of desktop or laptop “computers.”

It has almost been a decade since Apple first released the iPhone, leaving information technology giants no choice but to try and predict the type of new massively popular computing platform that we will transition to, so it’s no wonder that they are competing to create the new standard. Then, they will own the standard right out of the gate. With ARKit and its legacy of closed system hardware, Apple is poised to make this transition, but don’t expect a headset from the company just yet.

Apple and other tech giants noticed how the cultural rejection of Google Glass was extremely embarrassing for Alphabet, but Alphabet took it pretty much in stride (since it has so much advertising cash to burn), so it quietly turned down the hype and went back to the drawing board.

Today, in the context of all the new augmented reality and mixed reality systems that together comprise an experimental industry, the mixed reality industrial applications that involve a headset are used by industrial workers or field technicians who need one thing to do their jobs more efficiently: hands-free access to real-time information. 

The second version of Glass is called Google Glass Enterprise Edition, and it’s tailored to provide just that.

Glass Enterprise Edition (Glass EE)

So how did X’s “moonshot” engineers boost Google Glass for the enterprise?

A few noticeable differences: There’s now a recording light on the front of the glasses that others can see when a user is recording, like Snapchat Spectacles. The product has a longer battery life, a faster processor, an 8-megapixel camera (up from 5 MP), and electronics that can be separated from the frame. Google has OSHA certified frames available, and the glass pod is detachable so that it can be clipped to a person’s individual eyewear (like prescription glasses). 

Over the past few years, Google has engaged in relatively clandestine trial runs with Google Glass EE at Boeing, DHL, General Electric, Volkswagen and other companies. These companies are using the glasses to augment the ability of assembly-line workers to stay on task with serialized instructions to help them complete different tasks.

Agriculture company AGCO has been using 100 Google Glass EE headsets to enable workers to inspect finished products prior to shipping them to dealers for reselling to consumers. AGCO’s technicians provide an example of a highly specialized use case for Google Glass EE where hands-free inspection, safety protocol, and the ability to be guided by digital checklists provides users with time-savings advantages. 

Checklists help guide the technicians by providing them with model specifications and instructions for each point that have a sharper level of detail. Each pair of glasses costs between $1,300 -$1,500, which Google can customize for a partner, depending on their exact needs and intended use.

Google Glass EE is only sold to enterprises through the Glass Partner program, and won’t be available to individuals.

The plan is to make humans as infallible as possible on the assembly line until they can be fully replaced by cost-saving industrial robots. 

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