Google Glass, the wearable computer with a design like a pair of glasses launched into the market last year with mixed reviews. The wrap around design of the Glass was not exactly discreet and although the apps and ability to use voice commands to control the tiny screen were praised, Google came under fire about the issue of privacy as wearers were able to take photos and videos without passers-by knowing.
This month, Google closed its Explorer programme, meaning the Glass has been taken off the market and it’s no longer available to purchase. The Glass Explorer Edition though was only ever meant to be a Beta model, providing users with the chance to test out the new technology and see how it would work in the real world. Some have predicted that the closure of the Explorer programme marks the end for the Glass, but Google have said otherwise. In a Google+ post, the technology giant revealed that the group working on Glass is moving into its own team instead of being a lab subset. The current version of Glass has been taken off the market in order to ‘focus on what’s coming next’ and the team are ‘continuing to build for the future’ with further versions of the Glass in the pipeline. This has sparked speculation that Google Glass 2 will be released this year, although the exact date is yet unknown.
Patent documents filed by Google that were leaked at the end of 2014 showed a design similar to the Glass, but with a slimmer frame, smaller battery and ear hooks. Nobody knows if this design is definitely Google Glass 2, but with an interest in wearables booming for some markets it would be wise for Google to protect its ideas from other companies getting in on the headwear act.
Google Glass 2 will ditch Texas Instruments as a chip provider, favouring Intel instead which will put an emphasis on power conservation to improve short battery life and may help with promotion into new markets.
Intel is tapping into the growth of wearable technology already, having teamed up with fashion brand Opening Ceremony to debut a smart bracelet at the end of last year. Intel has also joined forces with Italian eyewear manufacturer Luxottica which it hopes will enable the integration of smart eyewear into luxury and sports markets. Will working on two similar wearables that are both expected to launch this year cause conflict for Intel?
Google previously declared that only around 15 of its 300 employees working on Glass were concentrated on its Google at Work programme, however it has been rumoured that Intel will promote Google Glass 2 to hospitals and construction organisations as well as developing new ideas for workplace usage.
Healthcare company Philips has already expressed interest in a Google Glass partnership with a concept that could see doctors performing surgery while simultaneously checking a patients vital signs in the operating theatre as an addition to their Intellivue patient monitor range. Other possible uses for the Glass in a hospital setting include accessing patient healthcare records quickly, monitoring wound healing and providing a link between mothers and babies separated after difficult births.
Yet the Google Glass 2 will have to be rigorously tested and developed with secure apps for use in hospitals in order to avoid the privacy issues that the Explorer Edition faced on the street. Medical workers are faced with strict laws around the issues of medical records and sensitive information, while the ability for wearable technology to capture photos and videos unnoticed may distress patients.
Even before it’s launch, the pervasive nature of the Glass caused it to be banned in places such as casinos, restaurants and banks, sparking fears not just over privacy but security too. New measures and rules will have to be set in place if the Glass 2 is allowed to enter the hospital workplace in a big way, as confidentiality and trust play a big part in the healthcare system.
In a construction setting, which Intel and Google are also rumoured to be working on for the Glass 2 and Glass at Work programme, the applications seem to have less of a possible privacy issue. Software companies such as FieldLens and Procore are already building packages for the Glass which will focus around quick communication, easily accessing documents such as plans and instructions, and health and safety monitoring. In this environment privacy is less of a concern and, although the device may not produce as much innovation as with healthcare markets, it might be a safer route to integrate the Google Glass 2 into workplaces where information is the focus rather than people.
This might mean that the Glass has a place in manufacturing, enterprise, entertainment and sport. Google at Work might make quality assurance easier in product production, allow trainers to keep a check on the performance of their athletes, or even replace autocues on the evening news.
While little is known about the Google Glass 2 and Glass at Work programme, it is unlikely that the Glass will become commonplace any time soon. But with the launch date expected to be some time this year, can you see yourself wearing a Glass at work?