Google Glass was just discontinued — again — raising questions about whether anyone still cares about AR devices
- Google announced Wednesday it is halting sales of the Glass Enterprise Edition.
- The original Google Glass was axed in 2015, and reintroduced as a business-focused product in 2017.
Google is halting sales of its augmented reality Google Glass Enterprise Edition, marking the second time the company has axed the product and raising questions about waning consumer interest in the technology.
The tech giant said in a statement Wednesday it will no longer sell Glass Enterprise, effective immediately, noting it will continue to honor software updates and product replacements through September 15. Despite cutting the glasses, a Google spokesperson told Insider the company is "deeply committed to AR" and plans to find ways to integrate the technology into other products.
Google's statement comes as sales growth and consumer demand for the technology remains sluggish across the board, thanks to several factors including lofty price points, lack of consumer awareness, and glitchy technology.
In the past year, this was further compounded by economic hardship, according to Marina Koytcheva, vice president of forecasting at market analytics firm CCS Insight.
"High inflation has hit consumer budgets in many major markets this year, and some people, who in better circumstances would have treated themselves to a virtual reality headset this year, have postponed their purchase," Koytcheva said in a December 2023 report.
It also comes as competitors like Meta, Microsoft, and Snap struggle with consumer adoption of their own AR products, leaving critics to wonder if the world's biggest tech companies will ever actually succeed in getting the technology to catch on with the masses.
The rise and fall of Google Glass
First introduced as Google Glass over a decade ago, the initial product was designed as a personal assistant you could wear on your face. It could do things like provide directions or help send hands-free messages.
Though Google Glass sparked interest for its seemingly vast potential, it also served as inspiration for late-night TV jokes, and many online took to calling those who spent $1,500 on the device "glassholes."
Further backlash arose regarding the headset's camera, a built-in feature intended to help detect surroundings and provide users with location-based information. However, some saw it as a potential tool to covertly record or take pictures of people without consent.
Ultimately, the lofty price point of Google Glass, as well as privacy concerns tied to the camera, led to its lack in mainstream acceptance and subsequent discontinuation in 2015.
In 2017, the product was reintroduced, newly focused on being a business tool with use cases like aiding workers on a factory floor with hands-free training, or allowing doctors to focus on interacting with a patient while someone watching the video feed transcribed notes about the person.
The business version appeared to be successful for a time, as Google released a revamped version in 2019 with various technical upgrades, according to CNBC.
Last July, Google said it planned to begin public testing of new AR glasses that could transcribe and translate incoming speech. In its announcement, the company was careful to point out the product would feature a light that turned on when the device's camera was in use, and footage captured by the camera cannot be viewed later by the user.
Still, these advancements proved insufficient to keep the AR glasses afloat.
Tech companies struggle to gain momentum in AR
Google isn't the only one struggling to gain traction with AR products.
The Wednesday announcement comes just months after employees working on Microsoft's AR wearable HoloLens were reportedly included in a round of layoffs that affected most of the tech industry. It also comes following Meta's struggles to get average consumers interested in the Metaverse and other virtual and augmented reality products.
Meanwhile, Apple is reportedly planning to release a "mixed reality" headset later this year, and has displayed prototypes that look more like Meta's Oculus virtual reality products than the Glass or HoloLens.
The HoloLens sells for $3,500, and Apple's headset is reportedly set to release with a price tag around $3,000, making them at least twice as expensive as the discontinued versions of Glass.
Snapchat's parent company Snap has created several versions of its AR "Spectacles," but is no longer selling them to the public after low sales and excess inventory. The latest version is "built for creators looking to push the limits of immersive AR experiences," according to the product's website.
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