As you walked, a screen flickered to life somewhere in your peripheral vision. It was a bit hazy and opaque, like a dream you had a week ago. You'd tap-tap to select options and could perform simple voice searches. After about 30 minutes, a headache would ensue that made you feel like you had mixed an energy drink with an Italian dark roast coffee.
I'm talking about Google Glass 1.0, the shuttered experimental project I once called the worst tech gadget ever invented. Recently, The Register and WSJ explained how Luxottica--the Italian eyewear company that makes both Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses--is helping Google design Google Glass 2.0. I'm already feeling the headache.
I tested Glass several times. I once wore them while driving a sports-car on a closed track, something I really don't recommend at all. I remember the feeling of first using an iPhone and thinking I held the future in my hands. I remember driving a Tesla and imagining how an intelligent car could help me drive through traffic. Wearing Google Glass is more like an annoyance, a feeling that the cyborgs have successfully performed surgery on you.
Here's what could work for the new version.
First off, there is an option to just keep the Google Glass closed down. That could work. I know the company has insisted this was just a temporary cancellation, that the project has slipped from "experimental development" to "product development" and that, like Apple, there won't be too much pre-release information about the real shipping version of Google Glass. When I wrote about how happy I was that Google closed down Glass, many readers took to the Twitterverse and claimed the only real change was that Google has brought Glass out of the lab. Uh-huh. They said that was a good thing, and even a step in the right direction. Yep. They are also hoping for a Google Reader rebirth.
If Glass 2.0 really is going to happen, there is one possible solution. Since I already wear glasses, I wouldn't mind using a built-in HUD. However, it shouldn't run as a secondary display you use during the day to record other people sneaking out of work or to view navigation tips as you run headlong into a sign on a street corner. Instead, it could run as a full display you use at work or for a few minutes while seated at an airport terminal.
I'm a big fan of Samsung Gear VR goggles, which present a 360-degree view of the world and allow you to watch movies, play games, and control an interface. The difference between Gear VR and Google Glass is astounding. Gear VR is a virtual reality experience that puts you into another realm and seems utterly convincing. There is some real business potential. VR goggles works because they transport you. I attended a concert wearing Gear VR and could see a drummer looking down at his set list and then I glanced around at posters on the wall. It's amazing. Glass was an augmented reality experience that didn't really work, especially if you felt like augmenting your reality all day.
The challenge is that, for VR to work, you really have to wear a headset that obfuscates your vision completely. The bar is set really high for Glass 2.0 because Google somehow needs to make the HUD work at anytime, even in the daylight. You would sit down at a desk and see a massive display appear before you. You'd check your email (or not). You'd hold a quick video chat with a colleague. You'd look up directions to a coffee shop.
And then, like every other living and breathing person, you'd turn the display off. The main issue with Glass 1.0 is that it poorly augmented reality. It was too opaque, too ancillary. I'd be interested in Glass 2.0 if it didn't augment my reality by made my reality more productive. I'd wear Glass 2.0 if they were integrated into my glasses, didn't make me look like a cyborg, and provided a way to see a primary display that actually helped me work in a mobile setting and get more done. I'd use them if they were helpful.
That could be a brilliant innovation. Google, here's hoping you figure out how to resurrect Glass as a productivity booster, not another nuisance.