The computing-enabled eyewear known as Google Glass is "graduating" to its own division as the search giant looks to the next phase of the device's development. However, Google's announcement that it is also halting sales of Glass "so we can focus on what's coming next" has some observers labeling the experiment as a failure.
Google revealed its decision for Glass in a Thursday blog post on Google+. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the transition will involve moving the project from the Google X experimental labs to a division headed by Tony Fadell, founder of the smart thermostat company Nest, which was acquired by Google last year for $3.2 billion.
Rolled out in 2012 initially to just a select group of "Explorers," Google Glass combines an eyeglass frame with a tiny optical display for connecting to the Internet. According to Google's latest announcement, sales of Glass through the Explorer program will come to an end on Monday.
The 'Glasshole' Backlash
Thursday's blog post thanked Glass Explorers for finding ways to use the device in numerous settings, "from the large hadron collider at CERN, to the hospital operating table." It added, "We still have some work to do, but now we're ready to put on our big kid shoes and learn how to run."
Google Glass attracted many fans -- its Google+ account has more than a million followers -- and has shown itself to be useful to journalists, tech professionals who need quick access to online data, Virgin Atlantic staff members who want to provide travel updates to passengers and even military personnel in Nepal who are battling poachers. However, the device's ability to surreptitiously record photos and videos also drew criticism and outright hostility from some corners.
Critics dubbed Explorers who used the device -- especially in public places like restrooms, bars and offices -- "Glassholes" for disregarding others' privacy concerns or interrupting conversations to check the Internet. Some establishments actually began posting "No Glass" signs, and a small group of developers in Germany came out with a device called Cyborg Unplug to "sniff" out and disconnect Glass and other surveillance-enabling wearables.
Transition Is 'Bittersweet' News
Comments posted in response to Google's latest Glass announcement ranged from worried to enthusiastic. One commenter called the news "bittersweet," noting, "I am happy to hear that Glass is moving out of Google X but I am also deeply concerned for the future of the Glass Program as a whole."
That concern has been echoed by others as enthusiasm for the device has waned over time. Reuters reported last November that nine out of 16 developers it contacted had stopped work on Glass apps, "mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device."
While Google is taking a public breather with Glass, it said work behind the scenes would continue. In the meantime, the device will still have limited availability to new buyers; instead of purchasing Glass online through the Explorers program, developers and business users can apply to Google for a purchase, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"You'll start to see future versions of Glass when they're ready," Google said at the end of its announcement. "Hang tight -- it's going to be an exciting ride."