Google Glass is back, but nothing is really different

When Google Glass was launched in April 2012 almost everyone got excited. Augmented Reality was the star of the hype cycle back then, and the possibilities for the device seemed endless. 

Three years later the product collapsed. Privacy and security issues proved to be too important both for Google and users, which became less and less interested in a technology that made us all look a little dumb.

It was expensive, too.

Why would Google launch another version of Google Glass? One would expect that this time the things that failed on the previous version would be corrected. 

They aren’t. Google Glass is still a niche product, enterprise focused, with a very limited set of use cases. It’s a little more powerful and has a better, bigger battery, but again, privacy issues are still there and users will look as dumb as they looked a few years ago. 

And it is as expensive as the previous version. 

There’s another big problem for Google Glass. As it happened (happens) with smartwatches, this device solves a problem that didn’t exist in the first place. Everything that Google Glass does can be done on a phone, and in fact Apple —with its ARkit— seems to have understood this better than Google. 

I’m affraid Google Glass is mostly useless: without real differentiation and really special use cases, it’s little more than an expensive business toy. Good luck with that, Google.

Microsoft’s ‘mixed reality’ sounds like a confusing plan B

Terry Myerson at Computex 2016:

Today, we announced that Windows Holographic is coming to devices of all shapes and sizes from fully immersive virtual reality to fully untethered holographic computing. Today we invited our OEM, ODM, and hardware partners to build PCs, displays, accessories and mixed reality devices with the Windows Holographic platform.

It’s good to hear that Microsoft opens up its platform and allows others to develop its own devices, but this feels weird. Why would anybody want to invest time and resources in something that hasn’t proved anything?

The same happens with that new ‘mixed reality’ concept that Microsoft has been talking about. Combining VR platforms with AR platforms could be interesting, sure, but Microsoft seems to be the weak one in this battle. HTC and Oculus have the winning hand (or at least a better hand) because they’ve already showed that this platforms can do something that interests certain kind of users.

All Microsoft has given us at this point is nice promo videos.

The Google VR future is autonomous

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Google took a big step forward with the first iteration of Google Cardboard: that simple solution was able to democratize VR and make accessible to everyone. It was, however, a flawed product: too limited and too toy-ish.

Weeks ago rumors started to pour in -we just talked about it a few days ago-, and now it seems clear that Google will soon reveal a new piece of hardware that will be far more advanced and ambitious than Cardboard. It probably will be also a new step between the Gear VR from Samsung and the HTC Vive Pre/Oculus Rift.

According to the WSJ, the new headset from Google won’t be tethered to a smartphone or a PC to work, and that’s something that makes everyone question where will it get its content from. I assume it will have WiFi support, so you’ll have to connect to a streaming server: some kind of ‘VR version of YouTube’, if you will, with some kind of VR Android on it. Uhm.

We’ll see if that’s the case, but that future of an independente headset is quite difficult to imagine: a good VR experience needs a lot of power, and streaming those experiences is for sure really demanding. Interesting times for VR, that’s for sure.

Are we ready for virtual showrooming? HoloLens fails to give a good answer

Here we’ve got another nice example of a promising technology that has to overcome several big obstacles. The user experience is far from perfect, and on this specific scenario -showrooming- it fails when what you actually want is touching something physical.

But as with many HoloLens demos, objects are coherent only at a very specific distance and angle. The very thing you want to do with the showroom model — walk up close and get a sense of its scale — chops it into pieces or makes it disappear altogether. The headset’s lenses are easy to adjust, they’re just incredibly unforgiving. I couldn’t quite find a fit that didn’t have me craning my neck to see a whole object, even if it was a Volvo logo the size of a dinner plate. Maintaining the showroom’s illusion requires unflagging concentration.

I’m affraid we still are too attached to actually feeling something in our hands or on our bodies to get a glimpse of the real sense of the product. Hololens seems nice as an expensive toy, but nothing else at the moment.

I really don’t see this escaping from the gaming and certain design scenarios.

Source: Microsoft and Volvo’s new HoloLens showroom is fascinating and frustrating | The Verge

HoloLens reminds us not only of Kinect, but of another big failure

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Dina Bass writes on Bloomberg about the slow demise of Microsoft Kinect and how this device was not well supported by the company, that should have bet on it from the beginning not only on the gaming side (Xbox 360, Xbox One), but also on the ‘serious’ software side (Windows).

While the technology captured people’s imaginations and provided some entertaining gimmicks, the Kinect failed to become the all-purpose computing device many inside and outside Microsoft envisioned. The company’s ambitions for the product started out too small, and by the time it was ready to go further, the different parts of Microsoft were unable to come together and create something with lasting appeal.

This is a valid point, but the problem is far simpler. Kinect didn’t succeed because Microsoft did too many broken promises. Kinect games were garbage too simple and too casual: Nintendo had been making those kind of games for too long, and the feature was not a differentiator. It should have been.

In fact, trying to compare HoloLens future with Kinect present is misleading. These are two different kind of devices, and I’d say that HoloLens is much more similar to Google Glass in every way.

The lessons Microsoft must learn should come from that project, not Kinect. We’ll see if Microsoft delivers this time, but pitching a $3,000 consumer device is pretty difficult.

Source: Kinect’s Rapid Decline Shows Microsoft How Not to Pitch HoloLens – Bloomberg Business