Google Glass is in danger of becoming a fond yet long-forgotten memory, much like Atari or LaserDiscs.
Google announced on 15 January that it would soon end sales of Google Glass as well as kill the Explorer programme, though it promised to continue working on "future versions" of the smart eyewear. The news shocked many who still expected Google to do a full consumer launch, but for those who followed the search company closely, it seemed like a long time coming.
It all began with a simple concept video.
Google Glass is a wearable in the form of optical head-mounted display. Google first unveiled the device in April 2012, when it released photos and a concept video to preview its long-rumored foray into building a space-age pair of spectacles. The video, called Project Glass: One Day..., showed what a day in the life of a Google glasses-wearer could be like in downtown New York.
The video starts with the Glass booting up, followed by icons flashing into the wearer's field of vision. He then checks his calendar, the weather, listens to music, and more. Never before had the public heard of - let alone seen - such a device, and so the video quickly netted tens of millions of views. It was a good start for Google, which clearly wanted to generate buzz.
And then, there were parachutes.
Google showed the first prototype of Glass - then called Project Glass - during a scene-stealing demo at Google I/O in 2012, in which the company hosted a live Hangout between skydivers who were simultaneously parachuting from a huge blimp in the sky to the Moscone Center on Earth. Upon landing, they ran indoors to join Sergey Brin, Google's cofounder, on stage.
Brin had interrupted Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president, during a keynote about Google+ (Gundotra later said it was his “Taylor Swift moment”) to announce he had planned something time-sensitive. He asked the conference's attendees if they wanted to see a demo of Glass, and of course the crowd went wild. Watch the video to relive the experience.
Followed by...Glass hitting the runway!
In an effort to continue the media blitz surrounding Project Glass, Google released more footage snapped with the prototype as part of a behind-the-scenes look at the Diane von Furstenberg show at New York Fashion Week in 2012. The world had seen what it was like to jump out of an aircraft, but this new short film put viewers in the middle of a catwalk with models aplenty and no cameraman getting in the way.
While it appears the footage was heavily post-production processed, it did give people a glimpse of what could be possible as well as a chance to experience things that they never would have seen before. It also showed that, despite the awkwardness of wearing a cyborg-like computer strapped around the front of your face, Google Glass could be oh-so fashionable.
But eventually, things took a turn for the weird.
Robert Scoble, a tech evangelist and early Glass supporter, shocked the internet (or at least his niche circle of followers) when he posted a photo of himself in the shower, wearing Glass, with this caption: "Yes, Google Glass survives a wet shower. You thought I was kidding when I said I would never take them off," he wrote. "So, they will be usable out in rain or other weather."
Larry Page, Google's CEO, made a surprise appearance at Google I/O 2013 a couple of months later, despite his mysteriously weak voice, and confronted Scoble about the photo posted to Google+ when he ran up to ask the company chief a question about Project Glass. Page joked with him: "Robert, I really didn't appreciate the shower photo."
Dude, you're becoming a glasshole.
The Explorer programme, which gave software developers the chance to buy Glass for $1,500 (£990), launched in the US in 2013 and then opened up to anyone in the UK last summer. Glass owners started to receive their first devices in the mail by 2014, which led to a rise in privacy concerns as well as the lovely term "glasshole". It's used to describe people who do not use Glass in a socially-acceptable manner.
The term reached mainstream status when the Urban Dictionary picked it up in March 2014. Google eventually heard about all the concerns regarding Glass, which included people's fears that they'd be secretly recorded by a Glass-wearer, and served up a list of "do's" and "don'ts". The company proved it has a sense of humour however when the list warned: "Don't be creepy or rude (aka, a 'Glasshole')".
Now you're just a lonely Explorer...
By the end of 2014, thanks to continued concerns about privacy and safety, as well as some businesses and restaurants banning the use of Glass on their premises, the world had seemed to grow tired of Project Glass and the fact that it had yet to become what Google and Brin promised. Other companies at this point were also launching smart glasses and more practical forms of wearable technology.
Three years on, Glass looked the same, though with more flare and accessories, and still cost £990. That last bit is key. As Wired noted, technology is a status symbol. Glass had long been limited to those who could afford it, which caused resentment, and so Glass-wearers got branded with the "glasshole" description. They were viewed as privileged schmucks, and suddenly, nobody wanted to be them. Now they're just lonely Explorers.
And finally, death.
Google has said the Glass team will exit the Google X division and that Tony Fadell, the chief executive of Nest, which Google acquired a year ago, is going take charge of the project. Ivy Ross, who was appointed head of Glass last May, will report to Fadell going forward. Google is making it seem like this transition is all part of the plan, but several reports, such as the BBC, have declared that Glass - as we know it - is dead.
That said, Fadell is known as "the father of the iPod". He could breathe new life into the gadget and bring about something we have always dreamed about, but until that day comes, Pocket-lint must admit that Google's ride both was both wild and brief. Until we meet again...