Not with a bang but with a whimper: It’s how Google Glass quietly stopped selling units as part of the Explorer program and developers headed back to the drawing board in January. It’s not that the venture was entirely unsuccessful, but rather that it operated the murky space between plenty of interest, but not enough commitment. For tech monolith Google, sales were dismal. While the actual sales numbers have been kept quiet, industry estimates range anywhere from 200K to 800K units.
But Google’s relative failure and subsequent abandonment hasn’t scared off Sony: Now available to developers in Japan, the U.K., and Germany, Sony Smart EyeGlass is planned for widespread consumer launch in 2016. As Sony attempts to capitalize on the areas in which Google missed the mark, Smart EyeGlass may be able to tap into niche markets that were overlooked by Google in the design, development, and marketing of Google Glass.
Sony’s Opportunistic Play
Like Google, Sony’s initial target market has been developers. For $840, first-run market developers received the glasses, plus a developer kit to enhance the development of apps. But, unlike Google, Sony plans on an open source development model that allows app developers more freedom in essentially crowdsourcing functionality for the glasses.
Another place where Sony will learn from Google’s mistakes is by creating clear niche markets for Smart EyeGlass as work. By focusing on app development in industries such as health care, industrial, and even action sports, more consumers will be able to identify how and why wearable tech actually fits into their everyday lives. Proving that smart glasses can make an individual more efficient at work might be the key to unlocking what will be the next great tech market.
It’s no secret that smart glasses have a variety of applications, from simulations to augmented reality. Sony hopes to capitalize on business-based applications and is poised to improve on slow starter Google Glass.
Not There Yet
The glaring issue, however, is the wearability of the glasses themselves. Those who utilized Google Glass complained about their design more than their functionality: The glasses aren’t sleek or particularly stylish. Unfortunately, the first Sony Smart EyeGlasses suffer from the same design issues.
It’s becoming clearer that consumers prefer wearable teach that integrates seamlessly with their current style statements. A low-key smartwatch, for instance, garners more interest than bulky glasses. Because the technology still seems intrusive, Sony Smart EyeGlass could be the ideal launch pad for wearable tech, or it could be another case where a great idea fails to find its footing.
Either way, the race for market share is on.