Why Is Google Glass Still a Thing?

Google Glass is not dead.

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Apr 24 2015, 7:34pm

Image: Flickr/Ted Eytan

Ah, Google Glass, the wearable that launched a thousand takes. Some people loved it, some thought it was a flop, and others hated it enough to take to clocking so-called "Glassholes" in their cyborg mugs on the street.

But when Google announced in January that it was retiring the $1,500 Explorer version of Glass, and that development would be moved from the company's Google X research labs, it looked like Glass might be over. The news was taken with a kind of mournful yielding bred by a sense of inevitability.

But fear not, because Glass is BACK, baby. The CEO of Luxottica, the Italian eyewear company that owns Ray-Ban, Oakley, and Lenscrafters—just to name a few of its many brands—announced today that it's partnering with Google to work on version two of Glass, the Wall Street Journal reported.

It makes perfect sense: one of the internet's biggest companies—or monopolies, according to the European Union, which filed monopoly abuse charges against Google this month—is partnering with a company that controls 80 percent of all major eyewear brands, according to Forbes, to bring a product that seemingly nobody really wants to a store near you. Believe it or not, Glass is walking on ai-ai-air, I never thought I could feel so free!

But, really, we should ask, why is Glass still a thing? After years of lukewarm, if not outrightly hostile, public reception and the kind of "I will never have sex with anyone wearing that" kind of hate that seems to have been displaced to the Apple Watch, it seems implausible.

Well, allow me to offer some theories.

GLASS WILL LAUNCH AS A LUXURY PRODUCT

That Glass would re-launch as an accessory for the super rich is actually not so far fetched. Apple has taken a similar approach with the Apple Watch, which launched with basic versions and a $10,000 Edition version that boasts a gold case. Celebrities have already begun buying them up, making the watch seem incredibly cool and popular and wait is that Drake at Coachella with an Apple Watch?

What's really interesting is that Apple has eschewed the insanely hyped mega-wide release that has characterized its last few launches for a targeted approach with the world's ultra-wealthy firmly in sight.

With indifferent attitudes from consumers—which may or may not indicate low sales, since Google did not release sales figures—characterizing the initial rollout of Explorer versions of Glass, it might make sense for the company to take a similar approach. Maybe you don't need a wide launch and adoption by the public if you can sell enough $10,000 face computers.

Partnering with Luxottica could mean that Glass will make it onto one of the company's luxury lines, but it also means that they probably plan on making a shit-ton of them. In that case, you, yes you, could put Glass on your face, too.

"Glass, increase rate of worker exploitation." Image: Flickr/Michael Coghlan

WE REALLY HAVE TRAVELLED BACK IN TIME

This has been one of my favourite theories to explain just about everything from artificial intelligence hype, to virtual reality, to synth pop. Everything seems to be coming back around and maybe—just maybe—it will work out this time.

Nintendo had a virtual reality helmet that flopped called the Virtual Boy in the 90s, and now VR is poised to change the game industry forever, according to supporters. Concerns over AI taking over the planet seem better fitted for a time when the first Terminator movie was still shocking people. And Google Glass fits exactly in this world—remember the scene when Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking around a dive bar to find some clothes, and his computerized heads-up display picks out the perfect outfit for him? Well, thanks to Glass, that actually exists now.

Wearables themselves feel like a hokey, geeky idea from the past more at home in a ridiculous spy movie or music video than real life. You like computers? Want to put one on your face? Your wrist? Hell yeah, I do. Welcome to the future of the 1980s.

SILICON VALLEY IS ALL-IN

SIlicon Valley's luxury no-poor-people bus-riding denizens absolutely love Google Glass. Just look at all these pictures of white men in tech—SIlicon Valley's favoured elite—wearing it. It doesn't matter that scientists have proven that having a computer on your face actually obstructs your vision—can you believe it?—or that a case of severe Glass addiction involving involuntary temple-tapping and dreaming through Glass's tiny display has been observed.

It doesn't matter, because just imagine taking them on a run, or to brunch, or to a white collar work function, or on the red carpet—wow, imagine being stopped on the street by people asking about your Glass! You'd be like a cyborg celebrity! All in Silicon Valley, of course, where Glass was developed and appears to have its most fervent supporters.

GIF: Daniel Stuckey