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Does the end of Google Glass mean the end of wearables? I don't think so

Friday, January 16th 2015 by Tristan Wilkinson
Industry maven and Cable.co.uk tech columnist Tristan Wilkinson questions whether the withdrawal of Google Glass means the end is in sight for wearable tech.

Google did a brave thing. Just one week after CES and at a time when the industry is beside itself with excitement over the possibilities of wearables, they have announced they are withdrawing their Glass products. It was only last week that we predicted that wearable technology would be one of the top ten tech trends for 2015. So what has changed?

Google has learnt that for technology to break through into being an everyday object that we wear as easily as we would a shirt or anything else it can’t scream ‘tech!’. In a former life I worked on a health project that provided a health solution into people's homes that needed constant monitoring. The very strong feedback from the users in these trials was that they didn’t want something in their home that announced their condition – the device needed to be discreet and most importantly, not look medical.

One of the issues with Google Glass was that not many people wear glasses, so you were asking people to do something that wasn’t natural for them. Those that do wear glasses already were pretty much excluded. Also, it was very obvious that you were wearing technology, this led to some well-documented instances of people being banned from cinemas, bars and so on. Serious concerns were raised about privacy – would you go on a first date with someone wearing a video camera on their face?

Samsung has released six smartwatches over the last year and shows no sign of slowing down.

However, this shouldn’t be misinterpreted as the death of wearables. Google will have learned heaps from this venture, and I suspect it is already applying that learning to some of its new ideas. I would expect to see some of the core technology and functionality reappear in other form factors very soon.

The wearable sector is still brand new. There will be many false starts and it's unfortunate that such a high profile failure has happened so soon, as the venture capitalists may get spooked and some great businesses could find their funding being withdrawn. For wearables to break into the mainstream I believe they need to do three things:-

  1. Be embedded within products we already wear
  2. Solve problems better than existing solutions
  3. Be desirable

Sure, Google Glass may be dead.

But wearables are just getting started.

Tristan Wilkinson, Cable.co.uk technology columnist

Tristan has worked within the technology sector for over twenty years in a variety of leadership roles for organisations such as Intel, PSInet and most recently digital skills charity Go ON UK. He regularly speaks on digital skills and inclusion topics and worked closely with the strategy unit at No. 10 on the Tech City and Start Up Britain Initiatives. Tristan now runs his own consultancy, Digital Citizens

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