Commentary

Google Refocuses Glass on Enterprise Uses

Following its failure as a consumer product, Google Glass is getting another lease on life with a new incarnation and redesign as enterprise hardware. Google is repositioning the wearable computer as a tool for workers in various industries, including healthcare, manufacturing and energy, per The Wall Street Journal.

While Google Glass resulted in a public allergy because of privacy issues, it proved ideal for various industrial and business applications, including inventory management, thanks to its heads-up display, voice recognition, and ability to scan barcodes and take photographs if necessary. Doctors could conceivably use it in clinical settings, for example to take pictures without having to stop a clinical exam.

The enterprise version of Google Glass has a new look, too. According to reports, it is a curved rectangle, resembling the early Explorer version but without the thin metallic frame. Instead, users can simply attach the device to their own glasses or a glasses frame.

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This doesn’t mean that Google is giving up on the idea of Google Glass for consumers. There is another mass-market version in the works, but it will be over a year before it is ready, the WSJ reports.

In fact, the new approach, focusing first on enterprise uses, may turn out to be a better strategy for easing Google Glass into the consumer mainstream. Seeing the device used by doctors and other work settings will allow people to get used to the idea of wearable computers. It could even lend them a certain professional cachet -- just another neat-o tool that smart people with important responsibilities use.

It will also give people time to absorb the widespread use of other wearable devices, like Apple Watch, fitness trackers, and the like, making Google Glass less of a leap.

Google Glass’ potential as enterprise hardware was first noted by ABI Research in January, in a forecast predicting that shipments of smart glasses will soar 150% this year, with 90% of these going to business and public users. ABI pointed to applications in categories including remote assistance, police and military, security, warehouse and barcode scanning.

An interesting side note: back in December, the U.S. Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program reported that they had treated their first patient with “Internet addiction disorder,” enabled by Google Glass, which the patient began using because it made him more efficient at inventory management.

The 31-year-old man originally checked into the program for treatment of alcoholism, but began displaying signs of addiction when his Google Glass was taken away, including physical tics like tapping his temple where Google Glass used to be, irritability, craving the device and dreaming about using the device. He told doctors that he had been using Google Glass to access the Internet for 18 hours per day.

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