It was just three weeks ago that Reuters kicked up a storm of speculation that Google was ready to abandon its Google Glass eyewear. Reuters reported that it had contacted 16 Glass developers and found only seven were still working on software for the eyewear while the rest had given up, and company co-founder Sergey Brin, who was always seen wearing them, showed up at an event without the device.
Then, thanks to a Wall Street Journal story, Google Glass came back to life. The Journal reported that Google would replace the Texas Instruments processor currently used in the device with a more powerful chip from Intel, and that Intel would promote Glass in workplace environments and help develop new workplace uses for them.
Hopefully this effort is not too late. Google's had some hits and misses, but the launch of Glass has to be one of the most bungled in the company's history. Instead of promoting them as a useful work device, they were positioned as a toy for technological hipsters and went over about as badly as a device could.
Bars, movie theaters and many more locations banned people from wearing them, people shunned anyone wearing them and a few people were assaulted. Users who wore them were called "Glassholes." Even Windows 8 didn't generate this much hatred.
While Google catered to San Francisco tech hipsters, others saw the value in the device. Japan Airlines put them to work at their Honolulu base to do plane inspections, while Dubai police are using it as part of their jobs to take pictures on the scene. What if Darren Wilson had been wearing Google Glass and it recorded everything?
The Journal report said there had been attempts to use Glass in professional settings but the device fell well short in performance and battery life. A physician at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center tried to use it for ACL surgeries (a ligament in the knee that athletes are particularly prone to tearing) but called it "pathetic." Another doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center said the battery life wasn't good enough for sustained use.
Still, there is some momentum for Glass, even in its less-than-ideal state. Earlier this year we reported on an enterprise push for Glass, with some wins. The sentiment in the WSJ story was that Intel will only help, since power and battery life are its stock in trade.
Intel and Google haven't commented to the Journal or Computerworld, our sister publication which also ran with its own story, and one thing I'm wondering about is what chip will be used. Google Glass uses a TI MAP 4430 ARM-based SoC, which came out in 2011. That's positively ancient in the chip world. So will Intel use an Atom processor or a Quark chip, which is specifically designed for Internet of Things devices, with which Glass can rightfully be included?
Whatever chip is used, it's clear Glass has a problem beyond being mismarketed. It was severely underpowered and had poor battery life, and we haven't even gotten into the fact that most people think the thing is downright ugly. That's just not acceptable in a $1,500 device. Putting aside the mismarketing and insulting names for its users, Google Glass has been bungled from the start. So let's see if Intel can save Google from itself.