Google Glass, the lessons of failure

Google Glass is a project launched by Google X Lab5 that appeared in April 2012. Google co-founder Sergey Brin was the principal initiator of the project: He demonstrated the product and  invited the lieutenant governor of California Gavin Newsom, to try Google Glass.


However, the concept of smartglasses goes back much further: the company Minolta created the first smartglasses in 2001. But back in 2001, Minolta didn’t have the powerful processors and sophisticated software to provide the rich user experience that’s possible today in products, such as Google Glass.

On February the 20th 2013, Google created a website to hire volunteers to try these glasses, and put a prototype on sale at the price of $1,499. Sergey Brin pursued promoting Google’s Glass Project, and explained his vision in a TED conference in February 2013. In July 2013: two surgeons operated with the Google Glass and they used it to film the surgery from a subjective view and share the experience.

Google glass is a headset with a flexible design, worn like a pair of eyeglasses. Google Glass is compatible with both Android and iPhone and is dependent on either Wi-Fi or 3G or 4G connectivity. It is equipped with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, a camera, a microphone, a touchpad and a gyroscope that detects head-tilts. But the main device remains the small prism-like screen that hangs just out of your direct line of vision and allows the user to be constantly connected and to not miss a beat. Wearing a Google Glass is basically like having a smartphone or a computer on your face.

There are a lot of ways to use the Google Glass: you can either use the touchpad on the side or the voice input to command the Glass to do what you want by saying « Okay, Glass » before saying what is wanted or you can simply your head up.


Thanks to the rich input mechanisms and equipment, by wearing Google Glass, you can take pictures of any view you wants, at the moment you wish, hand-free. The same applies to video. That can be interesting for extreme sports but also in a medical context (to film instantaneously a surgery for example). You can also do a group conference while walking, dictate text messages just by commanding it, using the voice input. Moreover, live information about what you need to know at the moment you want can be shown to you thanks to Google now (traffic, weather, best drinking or eating spots …).

Google Glass is a disruptive innovation because this innovation creates a new market that disrupts existing markets such as GPS receivers, cameras and smartphones.

Google Glass was criticized and lots of people were sceptical towards this innovation and the lifestyle it implies, so it wasn’t as good in the eyes of the majority of clients at first—and that’s what contributed to its initial commercial failure. At first, this innovation should have allowed Google to penetrate new markets and to improve the performance of existing technologies. Google Glass has the potential to go much deeper and amplify the functions of a smartphone. For example, while listening to music, Google Glass can provide information about the artist, and so on. Whereas, a normal smartphone doesn’t do this instantly and requires more time to get this kind of information. Consequently, Google Glass has the ability to improve performance of a traditional smartphone.

This new concept of smartglasses wasn’t accepted by the market because it was too much of a leap for most people, But the version 2 of Google Glass promises to be a disruptive innovation.

If we consider using Google Glass for surgery, it definitely would be a disruptive innovation because it completely changes the way surgery is done and taught. Doctors would be able to film the surgeries themselves, whereas they weren’t able to do this before and needed an extra person.

In a nutshell, the first version of Google Glass had the potential to be a disruptive innovation but its commercial failure didn’t make that possible.

There were different reasons why the first version of Google Glass wasn’t good in the eyes of the majority of clients; some said at first that every new technology causes initial public discomfort. It was controversial over the privacy and safety because of the dangerous aspect of the lapse in concentration and the possible recording of every moment thanks to the camera without asking permission. For example, Google Glass was banned in the UK while driving, but also in Las Vegas casinos because of the state law that bans the use of recording devices near gambling areas.

An important place in the technology industry

Google Glass is used in daily life, for entertainment or to gather information. It interacts mostly with:

– Medical industries: doctors might use Google Glass to get information during surgery or to film, in order to create informational tutorials for medicine students.

Security industries: airport security can use the glasses to film and to gather information that is as accurate as possible. It can also be used by policemen to record scenes of crime, traffics, and everything they do to be sure that no one crosses the line.

Entertainment industries: every one can use the glasses to record or take pictures of their everyday life, to watch movies, to locate themselves with the GPS, or to search information about their hobbies.

Event planner: can propose to his clients or colleagues to do distance group conferences.

The relationship between research effort and performance in technology takes the form on an S curve where S curbs illustrate the typical evolution. Google Glass is at the beginning of the S-curve. Even though the performance could have grown up rapidly over time, it wasn’t accepted by the market. The limit of the future version of this technology could have been the computer capacity.

The second version of Google Glass will probably not be in the other S-curve since the technological limit will still be the computer capacity. However, the information about it being strictly confidential, this might be subject to change.

Dominant design is what the market comes to expect, or demand from this category of product. Google Glass is not the first product of its category and its design is already similar to the already existing models. So, there is no differentiation on the look of the product, they all follow the same design (see picture below). Consequently, the design of Google Glass does not have an influence on its price.

Source: (Golden-I; Google Glass; EyeTap)
Source: (Golden-I; Google Glass; EyeTap)

Finally, this dominant design does not act as a competitor similarity and does not have significant consequences on the price of the Google Glass. A concrete dominant design might appear in the future, but it is not likely to be the case in the short term.

On the smartglasses market, there are many brands which are actually struggling to own the biggest market share. Formerly, the leaders were, indisputably, the Google model but some other brands such as Sony, or Epson come into play thanks to other capacities, size, or field of view.

The concept of the smart glass is older than the Google model: Minolta already created glasses in 2001 proposing this kind of vision. But they did not have the capacity to interact like Google Glass. Google gave credit to this technology and made it more popular, thanks to its internationally renowned brand name, and the firm’s huge investments in R&D. Its reputation as an innovative company helped Google to become a leader in this new “connected glass” market. It also has capabilities that are difficult to imitate, thanks to its investment in R&D. For these reasons, competitors were never likely to become market leaders until the failure of the first version of the device. This failure gave some time for competitors to catch up, and offer some new types of glasses. Now several new brands have acquired significant market share:

  • ODG R-7, which can be considered as the best device of the market. It’s the only one on the market that does not need a wired controller and meets industrial standards for hazardous environments.
  • Sony’s SmartEyeglass can also be considered as a leader right now thanks to the customer service and quality control but also for its competitive price.

Google is not the brand that created smart glasses but nevertheless it succeeded in dominating the market. The company managed to capture the market thanks to complementary assets such as its brand image, its network, its experience in distribution and its partners.

The Google Glass product has   a strong appropriability because it requires a lot of research and development and it’s difficult to gather the necessary skills and to imitate this technology. Moreover, all this has a cost, which can be considered as a real entry barrier.

Diffusion: a project doomed to failure?


Rogers’ five factors determine the speed of adoption of a technology by consumers regardless of the stage along the technology adoption life cycles: Relative advantage – idea precedes – Compatibility – Complexity – Trialability – Observability. Google glass emerged and has created a new market. It has created a new demand. Innovation demonstrates a relative advantage over the other options: a better technology is adopted because it has an increased performance, and an increased social standing. But on the other hand, it’s a lot more expensive.

Furthermore, Google glass is pretty compatible with a basic user, his or her life and habits. People will get used to it like they became used to smartphones. Still, some inputs, like the visualisation of information in the Google Glass glasses, may seem confusing to use. The main problem may be the audio-visual inputs: the possibility of being filmed and photographed by unknown people wearing Google Glass, anywhere, at any time. This may disturb people, and can make Google Glass incompatible with the values of freedom that we preconize.

In terms of complexity, Google Class has an image of difficult-to-use product, because there is a complex technology in it which can frighten people a bit. But actually, apart from knowing where to look, how to speak clearly to the device, and how to use the very few buttons, there is no particular difficulty.

On the contrary, it makes things easier than they are: You don’t have to use your phone to call, or type messages—all you have to do is look on the glass. Moreover, if you want to film surgery, for example, you don’t have to hold a camera on your hand, you just wear these glasses.

In terms of trialability: Google Glasses can’t be tried out before buying because they don’t have physical stores, they are only sold online. However, Google Glasses launched free try-it-at-home pilot so that the potential buyers and more particularly, professionals, could experience the use of these glasses and be the early adopters. In this way, people have a possibility to try out this product and the rate of adoption increases because they become more familiar with this technology

In terms of observability, Google Glass, which refers to how visible the use of the technology is, since the first version of Google Glass wasn’t used by many people, there was no observability for the product. This explains why the product wasn’t adopted and spread to a large number of people. However, if people start adopting Google Glass, Google could definitely take advantage of the market acceptance. The use of Google Glass is very visible to others indeed, since people wear it on their faces. Seeing that other individuals (or companies for the second version of Google Glass) use this technology would encourage others to adopt it too.

Can moore’s model save Google Glass from failure?

Market Google Glass as being a very innovative and high tech product, so that it pleases to innovators who search for the novelties. They are easy to attract since they want to be the first ones to use innovative and futuristic products. Moreover, the firm’s strategy should also show how this product is useful so that the early adaptors buys it as well. In their case, they are convinced in the fundamental breakthrough which Google Glass represents perfectly.

After convincing early adopters, early majority has to be convinced and it’s easier as we know that early adopters like to evangelize about their new find. Moreover, we should use measurable and real experiences such as making a publicity of the Google Glasses by involving early adopters and their testimony.


Fast Company – The First Look At The Second Google Glass…/14-google-glass-innovativ_b……/google-glass-graduates-the-next-wav…/…/…/innovation/google-glass-april-15/

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