The thing about Google Glass is that Sergey Brin was absolutely right. Back in 2013 he stood on the TED stage and shared this video:
He called the act of staring down at our phones all day "emasculating" -- a word that got him a bunch of heat for its male-oriented worldview. But the simple fact is that we've become more and more connected to our digital world, the "smart" phone has gone from being a window into becoming an electronic tether. Walking the streets of New York, you're going to walk headlong into someone who's staring into their phone; texting, using a map, reading email or posting an image on Instagram. The walking and staring down at your hand motif is so prevalent that it's created a new kind of street humor.
And a parade of epic walking while texting "fails" in compendiums like this one:
But humor aside, texting while walking is simply dangerous, and growing. And texting while driving is flat out deadly.
Cellphone related distracted walking injuries in 2010 resulted in more than 1,500 emergency rooms visits. A nearly 500 percent jump since 2005 -- according to a recent study from Ohio State University reported by Mother Jones Magazine. And Jack Nasar, Professor of Urban Planning at Ohio State University, and one of the study's co-authors, said the real number of injuries could be much, much higher, "Not every pedestrian who gets injured while using a cell phone goes to an emergency room," he told the magazine. "People who die from cell-phone distraction also don't show up in the emergency room numbers."
So, Google's attempt to provide people with a new interface -- Google Glass -- rather than try to ban behavior that's clearly on the rise, seems both logical and a pro-social solution. Leave for a moment to the side the fact that Google Glass, if successful, would have entered us into a new era of "Minority Report" style advertising and behavior tracking. Odds are, Glass or not -- we're headed there.
But now it seems that Brin's dream of a wearable internet application isn't going to be the world-changing wearable that he'd offered to the TED audiences.
So the only way to change bad behavior returns to government. 44 states have banned texting and driving. And at least one New Jersey town has instituted a texting-while-walking ban. The National Safety Council estimates that there is an accident every 30 seconds in which the use of a cell phone or handheld device was the cause. The NSC's total for texting-related crashes in 2013 exceeds 986,000.
Does anyone really think that a ban is going to change what now seems to be an undeniable urge to connect and communicate? I'd say not.
Interestingly, Google's driverless car initiative might fare better than Google Glass in the near term. Detroit, the insurance industry, and consumers seem to be warming to the idea of letting their car at least "augment" their driving -- which would make texting while driving far more safe.
So, much like the early Apple Newton -- Google Glass has certainly gotten out early to address a need that is certainly only going to grow. And from what I saw at CES this year, the "Wearables" space is already in overdrive -- with engineers and entrepreneurs working around the clock to figure out just what kind of wearable device will connect with consumers.
But at least for now, Google Glass won't be one of them. Google announced it's pulling the model II off the market for now -- and will reorganize the product and team under new leadership within Google. So will we see Glass 3.0, or will it end up on the trash heap of too-early innovations? That's the question that those of us in the early "Explorer" program are waiting to find the answer to.