Google Goes Glass-less

Tech news site The Information is reporting that Google is developing three successors to Google Glass, to be released in 2016.

Notably, one of those three models is Glass-less, so to speak. It will drop the screen in favor of exclusively audio output. Moreover, the audio will be delivered by bone conduction, as was the case with the original Google Glass.

Although Google continues to develop a 2nd generation screened version for the enterprise market, the audio-centric version, which is presumably targeting the sports market, may overcome the primary challenge that blocked Google Glass from more widespread adoption. Specifically, a small and unobtrusive bone conduction audio device may allow for a connected experience without putting barriers between individuals who are face-to-face.

With all wearable devices, I am concerned about sending signals to other people that I’m distracted or otherwise not paying full attention to someone. Regularly I found myself checking alerts on my Pebble Watch only to realize it looked like I was checking my watch as if I was bored with a conversation or had a conflict. This is less prominent with the Apple Watch, in my experience, because it handles multiple missed alerts more easily, and you can configure the haptic strength. But this was always my impression of Google Glass — as if wearers are saying, “I have other things going on besides you that are so important I literally can’t take my eyes off them.”

Although bone conductive audio devices have the potential to be just as distracting, a proper UI might allow for configurable or context-aware alert settings that minimize distractions when appropriate. Furthermore, if the form factor can be miniaturized to a considerable extent, other people may be none-the-wiser that you’re wearing such a device. Bad for trend-setting perhaps, but good for usability. And of course we all know how Google usually fares at trend-setting anyway.

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