Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) unveiled a host of products at its Google I/O developers conference -- Android TV, Android Auto, even DIY cardboard VR glasses. But it barely mentioned the hottest new item of the past few years: Google Glass.
After the company devoted a portion of the Google I/O keynote to Glass last year, and promoted it with a skydiving stunt the year before, the headset’s absence seemed conspicuous. No executives wore Google Glass on stage during the keynote. Glass “evangelist” Robert Scoble wrote in March that he found it “very troubling” that CEO Larry Page was not wearing the headset during a TED talk. "If Larry isn't wearing Glass, it doesn't mean good things for the project."
We spoke to Glass developers who attended I/O, but they didn't seem concerned about the lack of face time.
“Unequivocally, the politics involved with any given speech really doesn’t concern me at all,” said Jon B. Fisher, the CEO of CrowdOptic, which offers products based on wearable headsets like Glass, like the ability to live-stream from the perspective of the broadcast booth at a sporting event.
Days before I/O, Google announced hardware and software updates coming to Glass, including an improved battery and more virtual memory, or RAM. CrowdOptic was selected as one of five “Glass Certified Partners” for Google’s new Glass at Work program. Fisher said several new apps for Glass that focused on business uses showed the headset’s versatility.
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“If you look at the velocity of Glass, even in the last two weeks, I see more significance in that than if it were included in the keynote,” Fisher told International Business Times. “Google introduced a heck of a lot of functionality before I/O.”
I/O attendee Mark Scheel said Google was placing emphasis on its newest offerings at the event. Scheel wrote the book on how to program from Google Glass, and said the wearable’s ability to offer smartphone capabilities completely hands-free was still “pretty amazing,” whether or not Google brought it on stage.
“I’ve been to I/O for five years in a row,” Scheel told IBTimes. Google “tends to talk about things when they’re exciting and new, and when they move into a more mature phase, they don’t get as much” publicity.
Scheel said he attended a party for Glass Explorers the night before I/O. Google co-founder Sergey Brin showed up, which Scheel said meant the company was still supporting the product.
“You can imagine that he has plenty to do the night before I/O,” Scheel said. “The fact that [Brin] showed up to a Glass event speaks well for Google Glass.”
What about the negative publicity that has surrounded Glass as of late? Did Scheel think that was a bad omen for the product?
“Paparazzi have a bad reputation and they use old school cameras,” Scheel said. “This tells me it's not the device or technology, it's the person, the intent and the situation.”
Sure, Glass could easily ruffle feathers when used in the wrong context. Respect for individual privacy and politeness are “paramount to championing new technology,“ Scheel said. But “the same issue came up with camera phones originally. And look at them now.”