Google Glass: Looking Back On 3 Years Of Ridicule

Chris CrumTechnology

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It was nearly three years ago that Google first unveiled its "crazy future glasses," under the label Project Glass, which would go on to become known as simply "Google Glass". Now, as you may have heard, Google is halting general sales, though the Glass at Work program will continue. The team and leadership of the Glass unit is making some changes, and they'll continue to work on future versions apparently, but the Google Glass we've all come accustomed to is no more.

I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some memorable Glass moments since launch that might have led to where it's at now.

Let's start with the original introduction video:

This was a concept video designed to introduce the world to Glass and the types of things it might be capable of. It wasn't a representation of what was actually available, but more of a vision of how Google was approaching this new technology. While it certainly captured plenty of imagination, it also quickly became the subject of parody and ridicule.

One of the first ones demonstrated Glass as a new way to hurt yourself:

Here were a a few other first impressions:

“Google’s transition into the new Microsoft is now complete: fancy-pants sci-fi concept video to promote stunningly awkward augmented reality glasses.” - John Gruber (Daring Fireball)

"I fail to see how wearing this technology on your face means it’s out of the way." - Joe Stracci

And that was all within one day of the announcement. From the very beginning, many just couldn't take the device seriously, and unfortunately for Google, that just never wore off.

I'm not sure how much Sergey Brin wearing it around helped things.

More parodies quickly flooded YouTube. Here'd the Windows version:

And the version from Jimmy Kimmel Live:

And of course the version that fills your eyes with ads:

And the one where the guy gets hit by a car:

And the one that ends with the guy unzipping his pants as he gets ready for a ChatRoulette session:

And the "meme glasses" one:

Here's a picture of Google's own Matt Cutts from mid-2012:


Here's one of Brin seemingly making those around him uncomfortable:

Here's a later story about a reporter from The Verge wearing Glass and making the Palins uncomfortable.

Also in mid 2012, we looked at the short film Sight, which showed us a dark side of Glass-like technology:

Google tried really hard to pitch Glass as fashionable.

Remember the Fashion Week collaboration:



Newt Gingrich did his part to up the cool factor, as did Michelle Bachmann:

And Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan:

...but the fashion thing never quite panned out. Even Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt recognized this obstacle two years before Project Glass was announced.

"I’m not sure you really want to walk through town with these odd glasses on, you know, looking like an airforce jetfighter or something,” he said in an interview. “But I’m sure people will. I mean, as I was driving by here, I saw people riding their Segways, you know, looking like normal pedestrians.”

That's about sixteen minutes into the following video.

And when has someone riding a Segway ever looked like a normal pedestrian?

The great "White Men Wearing Google Glass" Tumblr emerged in 2013, and you could hardly look at anything Google Glass-related on the internet without running into the iconic Robert Scoble in the shower image.


robert scoble google glass shower

robert scoble google glass shower

Even Scoble eventually came to a stunning realization about Glass:

The Ridicule Continues...

Shortly after that, Saturday Night Live had a sketch making fun of Glass. That was also around the time when one CEO made headlines after saying that Google Glass would "definitely get someone punched in the face. Scott Heiferman from Meetup said:

“It basically means that you’re gonna be an asshole. It’s easier and easier for you to ignore real people around you, and sometimes that’s totally fine, but on this relentless pursuit – the train is barreling down, and saying, distraction is just a fact of life. We have to consider what it means.”

"And I’m not saying like, ‘Let’s sit back and ponder the nature of culture, and the future of society,’ in that way. I’m just saying, you gotta punch someone in the face wearing Google Glasses.”

In fact, the term "Glasshole" became widely used. Google actually had to put out guidelines on how to not be one.

Mid-2013 really saw a major revival of Google Glass ridicule. Here's a video that came out showing how ridiculous people might look taking pictures with the device:

Even by about six months later, Conan O'Brien was doing Glass bits.

Other Problems

Then there were the driving ban obstacles, not to mention the various venues that wouldn't allow you to wear the devices (movie theaters, strip clubs, casinos, restaurants, bars, etc.).

The bar thing even got so bad that one San Francisco bar decided to capitalize on it by giving free drinks to "outcast" glassholes.

Here's someone that got a ticket for wearing Glass while driving:


Granted, the court did eventually dismiss the ticket, evan as lawmakers continued to push for driving bans.

A guy who wore Glass at a movie was hassled by the feds.

Of course many were always put off by the privacy implications of the device. In 2013, we saw the device jailbroken and used to remove all indication that the device was recording video. Congress eventually became concerned.

Words like these from Google's own Glass FAQ probably didn't help anything either:

Glass isn’t for everyone. Like when wearing glasses, some people may feel eye strain or get a headache. If you’ve had Lasik surgery, ask your doctor about risks of eye impact damage before using Glass. Don’t let children under 13 use Glass as it could harm developing vision. Also, kids might break Glass or hurt themselves, and Google’s terms of service don’t permit those under 13 to register a Google account.

The Glass price tag should not be overlooked. A 2013 survey found that few were willing to fork over the $1,500 Google wanted. In fact, $500 was pushing it for a lot of people. Most who responded with interest in the device were willing to pay $200 to $300.

That's not even getting into the price of accessories:

In May, 2014, Google finally started letting anyone in the U.S. buy Google Glass. How many people have you seen wearing the device around since then? Besides on the Internet. Zero? Yeah, me too.

After that, Google hired a fashion marketer to once again try to up the cool factor. We see how well that's worked.

This past June, Glass became the object of ridicule once again in a Daily Show segment:

Then the world got to watch old people be confused by the device.

In July, Glass founder Babak Parviz went to go work for Amazon. In September, a study warned us over the dangers of texting and driving with Google Glass. In October, we learned that there is such a thing as Google Glass addiction, which can lead to involuntary temple tapping.

By last month, the tech blogosphere was all but proclaiming Google Glass dead in its current form, but that the technology behind it could find new and useful applications, particularly in work settings. From the sound of it, that's still likely the type of stuff we're going to see from Glass in the future. Just what that entails remains to be seen.

Despite all of the ridicule Glass has endured, you've got to give Google credit for trying something interesting and different. Even if it doesn't catch on in the sense that people everywhere are wearing it all the time, we've seen plenty of interesting use cases across various industries. We've even seen it used in a brain surgery. Hate and laugh all you want, but Glass shouldn't be considered a total bust, and Google is probably only just getting started with it. Don't forget about the contact lenses.

Lead image via YouTube

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.