I’ve posted about Google Glass before and I thought I’d revisit the topic when I saw news that Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Andreessen Horowitz are creating Glass Collective – a startup funding initiative that focuses on stimulating a development community for the Google Glass platform. It’s a fairly obvious move as fundamentally new hardware platforms usually need assistance in creating a vibrant app community. Glass Collective was formed to promote a fairly aggressive vision where glass is a new computing platform and the launch vehicle for a new class of applications. Certainly the team at Glass Collective is able to see a large part of the technology landscape and its trends.
I have a few thoughts after browsing the Glass Collective site and talking with a team of developers who will be seeking funding. First of all, it’s not clear to me that glass is a new computing platform. Small wearable (or pocketable) computers have been around since the 80s. I prefer to think of the device as a new display platform. The distinction is important to formulating perspective and how developers may want to approach the search for the killer app. Computing is commoditized. How we interact, visualize, comprehend and integrate displays into our daily lives is largely unexplored territory. These subjects have largely been the focus of researchers and academics and haven’t had a serious commercial venue. I am hopeful the glass platform will be a beachhead into these uncharted waters.
Also I am a bit disappointed in the timing and mercenary nature of the initiative. Typically the way these things play out is that a set of non-commercial driven pioneers begin work on a new kill hardware system without commercial constraints (making money) as a way of exploring the envelope of what’s possible with the new hardware. After a few years of open APIs and strange new applications built because they are actually cool, the funding community THEN steps in to create some coherence, and the calming effect of capitalism and market evolution takes over. I’m afraid the Glass Collective is a great idea that is about a year or so too early and may step on the traditional pioneering stage of exploration. Let’s hope the folks at Glass Collective are truly encouraging new uses of augmented reality and support what I call “Strange Failures” that can lay the groundwork for successful commercial venture. The worst possible outcome would be that apps are forced into a monetized mold early and the broad vision of Augmented Reality collapses into an Ad-mented Reality nightmare.