Here's what Google Glass v2.0 needs

Add a killer app, better design and a lower price

google glass 1
Image: Michael Homnick

With reports that Google is developing a new version of its troubled wearable, Glass, industry watchers weighed in on what changes are needed to turn the product from being the butt of jokes to a computer that people would want to wear.

After pulling Google Glass out of the public's critical gaze this past January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company may be close to unveiling an updated version of Glass.

That leads to the question: What will be different in this latest version?

Will it be enough to take off the tarnish that had increasingly built up around the prototype? The device initially had been met with geeky enthusiasm but then faded to the point that Glass users got the not-so-flattering nickname of Glassholes.

"I think we had recognized that the next version needs to be far more attractive and a far more shippable product," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "They've dug themselves such a deep hole with Google Glass that it will take a lot to get out of it."

Last week, Massimo Vian, CEO of the Luxottica Group, said his company is working with Google on the next version of Glass and the updated computerized eyeglasses should be out soon, the Journal reported.

Google signed on to work with Luxottica in March 2014, saying its new partner will bring "design and manufacturing expertise to the mix."

Luxottica did not respond to a request for comment.

Google would not say when a new version of the wearable might be unveiled, stating in an email only that its Glass "team is heads down building the future of the product."

With a new version of Glass in the works, Google not only has to rework its initial prototype, it has to reinvent the perception of Glass with the public.

"Google does have a shot at making this product work," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "However, their first effort has put them in the hole, user attitude-wise. Most users either felt it was an overpriced toy or an unwanted invasion of privacy. Neither attitude made Google Glass any friends."

He added the news that Luxottica's CEO is talking about making progress on the next version of Glass is a good sign that Google hasn't decided to cut its losses and shelve the product.

"It means we're going to see a 'Son of Google Glass: The Sequel,' rather than see the product fade into nothingness," Olds said. "A better looking version of Google Glass might help sales a bit, but what will be more helpful is updated hardware and software, a price drop and better functionality with other applications."

He added that Google needs to focus on toning down the "creepy stalker" factor to gain wider user acceptance of the device.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, agreed that the next version of Glass needs to be changed if it's going to catch on with customers.

"It has to be less ugly," he said. "It needs a killer app. The price has to come down and they need to deal with all the privacy issues. People will be skeptical, but if it really works, it could get some traction."

Google also should focus on business applications, such as doctors using them in an emergency room or remote maintenance workers wearing them to receive instructions.

"That would be the low-hanging fruit at this point," Enderle said. "They can create a product for a segment that will buy it at the high end, refine it and then drive that price down for the consumer market. It will also help to have people see doctors working with this product. It will change the impression that Glass was worthless."

Luxottica's CEO also said, according to the Journal, that while the company is working on the second version of Glass, it is also thinking ahead to a third version of the digital eyewear. The glasses were were initially designed to take photos and video, connect to the Internet to post those images to social media, while also enabling users to send and receive emails, view maps and news.

Google first introduced Glass in June 2012 during its annual developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco. Using Glass-wearing skydivers, the company made a big media splash and got headlines around the world.

More than 8,000 people, signed on as Explorers, buying Glass for $1,500, and using them to record personal events like birthday parties, balloon rides, bike rides and visits with relatives.

Some businesses, including a Seattle restaurant, a movie theater , and a casino banned customers from wearing Glass in their establishments, citing privacy reasons that ranged from privacy to simple annoyance.

Suddenly, Glass wasn't getting as much positive attention as online mockery.

In turn, Google executives and PR people began pushing back a Glass release date until they stopped giving out a release date at all.

Now, initial testers and the tech world are waiting for a new version to see what changes are in store.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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