In April 2014, google started a glass at Work program that highlighted some of the early developers. And that year when a few people from x visited boeing, which was testing Glass, they reported that their minds paper were blown by a side-by-side comparison of workers doing intricate wire-framing work with Glasss help. It was like the difference between putting together ikea furniture with those cryptic instructions somewhere across the room and doing it with real-time guidance from someone whod constructed a million Billys and poängs. Courtesy of google, the company decided to work on a version of Glass that would be totally separate from the consumer version. Then came the tricky part of where that team might live. Glass had supposedly graduated from x, but Alphabet put the Enterprise team back there. One reason was that an ace engineer named ivo stivoric was now a senior director. Stivoric had been steeped in wearables for almost two decades, co-heading a lab at Carnegie mellon and cofounding a company called BodyMedia that was bought by jawbone. He literally was doing this 20 years ago, says Teller.
But these are costly, bulky, and not well suited for routine tasks on a factory floor. In cases when all a worker needs is real-time access to information, a big helmet that takes over your entire field of vision is overkill. Smart glasses are a lightweight version of augmented reality—some people call this assisted reality—offering a computer display that one could view simply by shifting ones gaze and taking in the rest of the world as. Its cheaper and more comfortable than going full immersive. Without direction from google, these companies began to purchase Explorer Edition units of Glass and use them with custom software to tackle specific tasks for their corporate customers. We talked to all of our explorers and we realized that the enterprise space had a lot of legs, says jay kothari, who now is project lead on the Glass enterprise team. Also noticing was Brin himself, who, according to teller, reported the interest from corporations and suggested that a dedicated team might work on a specialized version of Glass to serve them.
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Then came a backlash from people interacting autobiography with Glass users, who worried that their private moments would be captured by stealthily recorded video. Establishments began banning Glass. The project simply wasnt working. When we originally built Glass, the work we did on the technology front was very strong, and starting the Explorer program was the right thing to do to learn about how people used the product, says Astro teller, who runs the x division. Where we got a little off track was trying to jump all the way to the consumer applications. We got more than a little off track. In time, glass jumped the track entirely, going dark in January 2015.
Its website read, Thanks for exploring with us—and that seemed to be the finale, even as the company also promised, The journey doesnt end here. In fact, a different journey had already begun. Even as the sound of breaking Glass was reverberating in the tech press, some early adopters were discovering that Glass was a powerful solution to a problem vexing the workplace. Workers who need real-time information—and both hands free—were natural beneficiaries of what Glass had to offer, even if google hadnt figured that out yet. Its a choice between an immersive form of augmented reality, which overlays digital information on top of the real world, and an alternative that lets workers shift between the virtual and the actual. Some companies in the enterprise sector have been singing the praises of mixed reality helmets that overlay graphics and information onto a camera-captured display of the real world.
Forrester Research report predicts that by 2025, nearly.4 million us workers will wear smart glasses. It wasnt referring to fashion runways. It turns out that with Glass, google originally developed something with promising technology—and in its first effort at presenting it, failed to understand who could use it best and what it should be doing. Now the company has found a focus. Factories and warehouses will be Glasss path to redemption.
A workplace version is quite a shift for one of the most hyped products in googles history. Glass first dropped into public consciousness five years ago as the featured product of googles big I/O conference in 2012. Literally dropped, as thousands of attendees watched a free fall from the point of view of a team of Glass-equipped skydivers hurtling toward the roof of San Franciscos Moscone center. The elaborately planned stunt set the tone for the launch of a product that was nowhere near ready for reliable use when it was released a year later. Google acknowledged that by calling early buyers Explorers—virtual Shackletons who knew they were venturing into a treacherous realm. Still, first impressions were rhapsodic: Time declared Glass one of the best products of the year, and everybody from Prince Charles to beyoncé clamored to try it out. But soon Glass's failings became apparent. It was buggy, it felt awkward, and it really didnt have a clear function.
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The first is the iconic photo of Brin alongside designer diane von Furstenberg at a fashion show, both wearing the tell-tale wraparound headband with display stub. The second image is what I saw at the factory where Erickson dissertation works, just above the iowa essay state line and 90 miles from sioux Falls, south dakota. Workers at each station on the tractor assembly line—sporting eyewear that doesnt look much different from the safety frames required by osha—begin their tasks by saying, ok, glass, Proceed. When they go home, they leave their glasses behind. Left: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images. Right: courtesy of agco. These jackson, minnesota, workers may be onto something.
Thats what Erickson wears every day. She works for agco, an agricultural equipment manufacturer that is an early adopter of Glass. For gender about two years, Glass ee has been quietly in use in dozens of workplaces, slipping under the radar of gadget bloggers, analysts, and self-appointed futurists. Yes, the population of those using the vaunted consumer version of Glass has dwindled, tired of being driven out of lounges by cocktail-fork-wielding patrons fearing unwelcome cameos. Meanwhile, alphabet has been selling hundreds of units of ee, an improved version of the product that originally shipped in a so-called Explorer Edition in 2013. Companies testing ee—including giants like ge, boeing, dhl, and Volkswagen—have measured huge gains in productivity and noticeable improvements in quality. What started as pilot projects are now morphing into plans for widespread adoption in these corporations. Other businesses, like medical practices, are introducing Enterprise Edition in their workplaces to transform previously cumbersome tasks. The difference between the original Glass and the Enterprise edition could be summarized neatly by two images.
of the bardo. The original Glass designers had starry-eyed visions of masses blissfully living their lives in tandem with a wraparound frame and a tiny computer screen hovering over their eye. But the dream quickly gave way to disillusionment as early adopters found that it delivered less than it promised—and users became the target of shaming from outsiders concerned about privacy. Within three years, Alphabet (the parent company of google and its sister company, the moonshot factory called X) had given up Glass for good—or so people assumed. What they didnt know was that Alphabet was commissioning a small group to develop a version for the workplace. The team lives in Alphabet's X division, where Glass was first developed as a passion project of google cofounder Sergey brin. Now the focus was on making a practical workplace tool that saves time and money. Announced today, it is called Glass Enterprise Edition.
Dont homework call heather Erickson a glasshole. Yes, thats google Glass on her frames. But shes not using it to check her Facebook, dictate messages, or capture a no-hands video while riding a roller coaster. Erickson is a 30-year-old factory worker in rural Jackson, minnesota. For her, Glass is not a hip way to hang apps in front of her eyeballs, but a tool—as much a tool as her power wrenches. It walks her through her shifts at Station 50 on the factory floor, where she builds motors for tractors. Steven levy is Backchannel's founder and Editor in Chief.
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