It’s not actually shipping, except to some selected blessed few. It costs about as much as an annual gym membership. It makes you look like a dork, and it doesn’t actually do very much. So how can Google Glass be called a Product of the Year?
Because in many ways to many people, fairly or unfairly, Glass defines wearable technology in 2013.
From most companies, something as ambitious as Glass would be a science fair project, and the by-invitation-only distribution model laughable. The only actually shipping product like it is from Vuzix, and they’re pretty clear that it’s for special-case industrial use. For walking around life, the idea of an augmented reality goggle is something suited for people who really don’t give a damn about what other people think of them; the very thin edge of the early adopter wedge.
And Glass is polarizing, if you’ll excuse the expression. We know one at least one person who’s been thrown out of a bar for wearing one, and another who got a traffic citation for driving with one on. There are probably others, too. The idea that someone may be recording you while you’re looking at them bugs a lot of people, as does the idea that someone who’s looking at them may be looking at some unseen something else at the same time. And not everyone who’s invited decides to play along.
But here’s the thing: cellphone zombies who walk down the street with their eyes down are commonplace. Those people are less in an analog reality space as Glass wearers are, but they’re not scored. (Ridiculed, maybe, but not scorned.) There are lots of other body-worn cameras on the market that are less obtrusive than Glass but no more intrusive, and they go nearly without comment.
Maybe it’s that Glass is so literally in your face that it’s impossible to ignore. Maybe it’s that it’s so expensive and so exclusive. Maybe it’s that Glass is such an obvious badge of geekdom. Maybe it’s that in 2013, Google is seen less as a Good Guy company it considers itself to be, and more as a necessary evil. For whatever reason, Glass hate goes far beyond Glass’s societal or commercial impact.
There’s no other product or prototype that sets the dialog around wearables or so personifies it to the public. For that reason, Google Glass is a Wearable Product of the Year.