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Google Glass R.I.P.

Another day brings yet another explanation for the failure of Google Glass. This time, no less than the august New York Times informs us that Google Glass failed because of Sergey Brin’s divorce. Points for originality on that one. Previous explanations have included low battery life, privacy concerns, lack of applications and a price point that was too high. While all these things probably contributed to the failure of the product, they all miss the obvious problem. Google Glass looked ridiculous. I should confess that I have never worn Google Glass. I have seen people wearing it on the streets of New York City and, on one memorable occasion, someone came to the Dressler offices wearing Google Glass. Each time I saw Google Glass “in the flesh,” I was again struck by how unaccountably ugly the product was. Google seemed vaguely aware that ugliness was an issue. Google’s marketing department flooded the press with images of attractive (but approachable) models wearing the product looking fun, engaged and totally not-geeky. Unfortunately, these images merely reinforced the fundamental issue: “That woman would be very attractive if she wasn’t wearing those things.” They even brought in poor Diane Von Furstenberg to make them less ugly. That failed. The reason the product is so ugly isn’t that the frames or colors or materials were wrong. They were ugly because they made the face of the wearer asymmetrical. Human beings are hard-wired to prefer symmetrical faces. Scientists have suggested that symmetry is indicative of good health and proper nutrition during childhood. Sounds about right. What Google Glass did, was put an “extra” giant red pulsing eye over the wearers right eye. On a gut level, this type of asymmetry is disturbing. People didn’t react to Glass wearers with hostility because of “privacy concerns.” They reacted negatively because millions of years of evolution have conditioned us to view asymmetrical individuals as unhealthy, deformed mutants. (And not the cool kind of X-men mutants who, you will notice, are remarkably symmetrical.) The smugness of the “explorers” didn’t help, but it didn’t really make all that much of a difference in the end. The tragedy here is that the failure of Google Glass may set back the wearables market in general and there is a lot of promise in wearables. The engineers just need to remember what makes a human being beautiful and what makes them hideous and disturbing.

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