Monday, April 10, 2017

Why the Google Glass "shower scene" lived longer than Google Glass

While I often write about technology, I realize that technology in and of itself is meaningless. Technology is only meaningful if it makes a difference in the lives of a group of people.

As I am fond of noting, the technologies that are developed for law enforcement applications are not useful unless you have dedicated police officers who seek to use them for the public good. When a technology is credited with solving a decades-old cold case, the truth is that a police officer successfully used the technology - perhaps after several instances of trial and error - to solve the case.

But that really doesn't have anything to do with Magic Leap and its patent applications.

Before we get to that, though, let's go back to May 2013. Larry Page, who was CEO of Google at the time, was appearing at Google I/O when he was approached by Robert Scoble. Page jokingly (maybe) said to Scoble, "Robert, I really didn't appreciate the shower photo."

Which shower photo?

This one.

When Scoble's wife took the picture, the idea was to show that (a) Google Glass was waterproof, (2) Scoble really liked Google Glass, and (3) the co-author of Naked Conversations really meant it. However, there was a negative reaction to the photo, and it was subsequently characterized as "one of the single weirdest bumps in Glass' grinding trainwreck of a life." (Oh, and it was parodied.)

Yes, life. Because Google Glass - at least as a consumer product - is dead. Time will tell whether Google Glass is/was a Lisa that led to the Mac, or if it was an Amiga that led to nothing. Or if it's yet another example of Google introducing a product and then killing it.

But the picture lives on, and will live on in the electronic files of the U.S. Patent Office. If you look at patent application US 2016/0109707 A1, at figure 2E, you will see this:

A description of the picture is found in paragraph [0005] of the patent application. The short version is that Google Glass and other existing devices at the time of the application "fail to address some of the fundamental aspects of the human perception system."

But that isn't why Google Glass failed. Google Glass failed because there wasn't a consumer market for it.

And ironically, there was more of a market for the Scoble picture than the product. Hey, I've reprinted the picture...

P.S. I didn't know about this patent application at the time, and only learned about it because Scoble reposted some information about the patent application, along with this update:

UPDATE April 2017: I still am hearing good things about Magic Leap. The next couple of years are gonna see a ton of new mixed reality glasses for us to try.
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