Are you OK, Google? One expert thinks Google Glass could be a dead concept

This is a photo of the crowds at International CES last week, the biggest technology show in the world.

Among the crowd are journalists, manufacturers, buyers and exhibitors from the most prominent parts of the technology community across the globe. Essentially the complete target market for Google Glass, the search engine giant’s smart headset that places a head-up display (HUD) front and centre in your life without intruding on your vision.

But Glass is nowhere to be seen. During our week at the show in Las Vegas, which was attended by over 160,000 people, we saw a grand total of three people wearing Google Glass. So why has one of the biggest stories in tech in 2014 seemingly been abandoned in 2015 by the heart of the industry?

“People have got bored of it,” says Stuart Miles, a gadgets expert and founder of technology website Pocket-Lint.

“Google Glass came to the UK in June, a year after the US but it hasn’t moved on since then. Nobody really looks good wearing it, and I think consumers expected something to have been done with it by now.

“What we’ve found is that there are social barriers to wearing it. The fact is you wouldn’t wear it out to dinner or the pub because you look like a douchebag.”

Miles suggested that the original concept of Google Glass has damaged its standing with consumers now because it set expectations too high.

“The promise when it first appeared was that eventually you would be able to walk into a room and get this HUD of everything – or be at the football for example and get live stats when someone had the ball, but the reality is we don’t have all those stats yet. At the moment that’s impossible and the promise has outlived the reality.”

Having first appeared as a concept called Project Glass back in 2012, Glass was made available to developers in 2013 via an approval process before later going on more general sale for around $1,500. It then came to the UK in summer 2014, but Google has never officially launched Glass as a full consumer product. This is another reason Miles thinks Glass has lost some of its shine.

“I think it was an interesting experiment, but it has lost momentum, and that’s partly because early adopters are a fickle bunch. But with things like this you have to keep updating and refreshing, and Google never launched it to consumers and that’s why I think it’s struggled,” he said.

Miles added that the need for the rest of the industry to stay “on trend” has also had an impact – particularly at CES where the stakes are higher.

“When I think back to CES last year everyone had it (Glass) in some form or another – it was an innovative concept so everyone wanted to show they were at the cutting edge of technology by adopting it. But this year the innovation was virtual reality (VR) and Oculus Rift,” he said.

Oculus Rift is the virtual reality headset that was funded on crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter and has since been bought out by Facebook.

“I remember walking past the Intel stand and seeing four people wearing Oculus playing catch. Why couldn’t they just play catch normally? Because they want to show they’re using the latest tech,” Miles said.

“VR has the same barriers as Google Glass because it involves having to wear something on your face that makes you look a bit silly, but the difference is you can wear VR at home, and you don’t have to walk down the street in it.

“I think it if does ever make it and is successful it will be in very unique user cases.”

Those who have trialled Glass so far include surgeons in the US and UK, as well as Virgin Atlantic staff at Heathrow, using the headset to improve customer service and provide more information to passengers.

Google could point to the hardware’s Google+ page – where news surrounding the device comes from – and the more than one million followers the page has as a sign of continued interest in Glass.

Tesco has also just announced a shopping app designed for Glass that enables users to add items to their shopping basket by scanning barcodes or voice searching for them.

This area of wearables does remain of interest to other companies too, with Sony demoing a “Smart EyeGlass” prototype at CES this year.

But questions remain over the viability of this form of wearable, and with the rise of other forms like smartwatches and fitness bands, it appears as if the future of Google Glass and other forms of HUD wearables is in the balance.

Most Read in World