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By Chaz Wilke, Staff Writer
November 25, 2014

Sarah Slocum just wanted to go out for a drink with friends after work. Slocum, a San Francisco tech writer and proud Google Glass wearer, soon realized not everyone is receptive to a wearable computer and camera on a stranger's face.

What could have started with not-so-polite requests to remove her face computer, quickly devolved into an uncomfortable confrontation.

Slocum is a member of the demographic that journalists have labeled glassholes. Becoming a glasshole is a Google-acknowledged problem with Glass owners. Google's own documents define a glasshole as being a creepy or rude person who does not respect the wishes of others with regards to the use of Glass. "Respect others' privacy and if they have questions about Glass don't get snappy," Google requests.

Fault may rest on both sides at the San Francisco bar that night, but there is an inherent irony in Slocum's altercation. As the angry bar patrons reached to rip the Google Glass from Slocum's face for the perceived injustice of her recording video of them without consent, multiple wall-mounted security cameras captured the altercation.

This irony may be the underlying reason why Google Glass is now dying a slow death.

Surveillance and society are now synonymous. Stepping into public carries the implied understanding that you will be photographed. Leaving home thinking no one will see you, much less record you, is a delightfully antiquated assumption.

For those who might doubt the stigma glassholes feel when wearing the $1,500 Google novelty, here is a real-world experiment you can try: Carry around your phone (provided it has a camera, otherwise find a camera) and point the camera's lens directly at people as you walk through a mall.

You'll receive pointed questions concerning your motives and actions. You'll receive requests to stop filming even though you're not, and pressure to divulge what you'll be "using those for." Mothers may shield children as you make your way past the food court based on the assumption that you're capturing footage.

The situation is reminicent of Jeff Goldbum's character in Jurassic Park, Dr. Ian Malcom at a loss for technology-run-wild as he said: "Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

That's because this isn't a question of good and evil. This isn't even an exercise in right and wrong. It is merely the confusing boundaries between could and should. And that confusion will ultimately kill Google Glass.

Google's Fleeting Interest in its Own Baby

Google has a history of abandoning its own products. Google wave, Google+, Orkut, Google Reader, iGoogle, and so on, all represent Google's lack of interest in bringing a product to market and supporting it as Apple might. Some may suggest that Google's products are perpetually in an Open Beta, meaning not officially released yet widely available, as an excuse for releasing half-finished products with no marketing strategy.

Google first reached out to Glass Explorers as the big G calls them, but what the rest of the tech world might just as easily call early adopters. The hope seemed to be that enthusiastic and influential users would market-by-example to a salivating mass-market consumer who would jump at the chance to grasp the prestige of wearing Glass. Unfortunately, those influential users reveled in that prestige a little too hard and turned the public perception from wide-eyed wonder to something a few pitchforks shy of the climax of Frankenstein.

An Apple marketing campaign Glass Explorers most certainly is not. Google's hope of news stories highlighting the wide range of uses for Glass didn't meet with reality. In the end, the news stories focused more on public reaction, which was almost universally negative. Stories ranging from shouting matches, assaults, and movie theater ejections signaled that the public just didn't understand the product and felt threatened when they saw one. Honestly, who can blame them?

Also, consider Google's tepid insistence that always-on facial recognition software would be banned from Glass, while teaching programmers how to easily circumvent that restriction. "Google itself provided the information needed for developers to ‘hack' its Glass systems to provide such services during a session at its I/O conference in May called ‘Voiding Your Warranty: Hacking Glass'," reports Charles Arthur at The Guardian.

Fumbled Marketing Potential

Google's failure to provide Glass to the desired Explorer demographic becomes crystal clear when compared to GoPro's successful user-generated marketing. GoPro makes a compact, waterproof go-anywhere camera.

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The remarkable footage created by users and presented in GoPro's marketing shows the vast potential of that adventurous product. Recently, GoPro released a harness called Fetch to attach the waterproof camera to your dog. The footage is as gripping as the free-running Parkour enthusiasts who use the compact camera to capture their high-adrenaline art form.

It is clear the targeted Glass Explorer demographic isn't living the kind of life that lends itself to gripping footage. So in the end Glass becomes more a mundane personal assistant than a tool to capture the POV of an adventurous life, making the term Glass Explorer feel evermore like an oxymoron.

"Google is the wrong company to push a product like this because to most users Google is a faceless corporation that deals in information. It's a HAL 9000," says ZDNet contributor Adrian Kingsley-Hughes. In a word, Google is not cool. Apple is cool. GoPro is cool. Google is data. Google is interested in quantifying and collating every morsel of data it can gather on each person. So, perhaps the most poisonous characteristic of Glass is the company that makes it.

Moving Forward

It is unlikely that Google Glass in its current form will reach any real mass market saturation. Google's hi-tech trinket is prohibitively expensive, unwelcome in public, and wrought with lack of developer support. These three elements will likely mark the slow, sad death for Google Glass. But Apple is making a super nifty watch.

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