In a surprise move, Google has stopped selling the prototype version of its Google Glass eyewear device ‘in its current form’, but said it still aims to sell smart glasses in the future.
The move seems to be an admission that consumers are not quite ready for digital specs.
In a statement, ihe company said it remained committed to launching a consumer version of its smart eyewear, Google Glass, but would stop making the headset in its current form and focus instead on “future versions of Glass”.
Google says it is committed to working on the future of the product, but gave no timescale for the launch of any new version.
The Glass Explorer programme, which allows software developers and early adopters to acquire the device for $1,500 (£990), was launched in the US in 2013 and the UK last year, and was expected to be followed by a mass market rollout.
Now, Google says the Explorer programme will come to an end and it will stop taking orders for headsets from 19 January.
Google said it would still offer support to companies that already use Glass.
From next week, the search firm will stop taking orders for the product but it says it will continue to support companies that are using Glass.
The Glass team will also move out of the Google X division which engages in “blue sky” research, and become a separate undertaking, under its current manager Ivy Ross.
She and the Glass team will report to Tony Fadell, the chief executive of the home automation business Nest, acquired by Google a year ago.
He said the project had “broken ground and allowed us to learn what’s important to consumers and enterprises alike” and he was excited to be working with the team “to integrate those learnings into future products”.
Originally touted as the first major wearable tech item, Glass was reportedly the brainchild of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who has rarely been seen in public without a pair since its launch.
The device, which consists of a glasses-like frame with a small screen above the user’s right eye, promised to deliver multiple, revolutionary hands-free applications. Yet modest sales were compounded by concerns over privacy – with some bars and restaurants ban Glass, whose users earned the nickname “glassholes”.
The announcement comes days after Tesco became the first major UK retailer to launch a Glass app, Tesco Grocery, which lets shoppers browse supermarket shelves and make purchases hands-free. Last year, Reuters surveyed 16 Glass app developers, nine of whom admitted they had abandoned or stopped work on their apps, due to the device’s technical limitations or lack of popularity.
Speaking to an audience in Bogota, Colombia this week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared to suggest another reason for Glass’s failure to take hold in the public imagination: the device just looks “weird”. Asked to predict how tech hardware might evolve, Zuckerberg said: “In another 10 to 15 years … we will have something that we can wear. Maybe it will look like just normal glasses so it won’t look weird like some of the stuff that exists today.”
Other companies have launched smart glasses and various other forms of wearable technology. But no single product has yet proved the major hit that technology companies are looking for as they seek out the next big thing.