Tech

Google Glass Just Lost Its Biggest Cheerleader

“I think this form has a future but Glass is not it. At least not now.”

The above, now-infamous photo will be a year old next week. The photo’s subject, internet and gadget evangelist Robert Scoble, caused an uproar when he posted the picture to his Google+ page as proof that he would never take the headset off, except to let strangers try it. “You thought I was kidding,” the caption read.

Besides simply being a photo of a naked, waterlogged, barely famous middle-aged man, the photo was thought to be a harbinger of the age of wearables, a defining image for a new future of ubiquitous face gadgets.

In the months since his shower, Scoble has continued to be Glass’ biggest champion, including it in every aspect of his daily life. Back in January he recorded audio and took pictures of a group of teenage girls as he asked them about Glass, prompting outrage from many who found the exchange unpalatable and creepy.

But this past weekend, Scoble announced that he’d had enough. After a disheartening weekend at the Coachella Music Festival, Scoble admitted in a Facebook post that the product he’s affixed to his face for the past year is flawed, noting, “Google has launched this product poorly.”

Here’s Scoble’s full statement:

Last night before Skrillex at Coachella came on two guys were talking next to me. One said “I want to get away from the Google Glass guys.”
I turn around and there are two guys wearing Glass.
Google does have a problem here.
I haven’t worn mine at all this weekend.
What is going on here in a world where I am carrying around a camera and EVERYONE uses their phones or a GoPro but Glass feels freaky and weird?
Google has launched this product poorly, is what.
But wearable technology needs a different set of skills than Google has. What? Empathy.

The post feels like the definitive end to Scoble’s Glass honeymoon, though the warning signs started to appear months before. In January, Scoble expressed his frustrations about Glass in a Huffington Post op-ed. “If Glass actually worked the way I’m dreaming of I would be even more addicted to our online world than I am today. People are scared of losing their humanness. […] They are right to be scared of that,” he wrote.

And in March, he worried aloud in a Google+ post that Larry Page had stopped wearing Glass in public appearances. “Google Glass is a deeply flawed product,” he warned.

For Glass, which has faced recent criticism for its sloppy rollout, Scoble’s slow disenchantment is particularly damning. Scoble wasn’t just an enthusiastic champion of Glass, he seemed to give his entire person to the product, ridicule be damned. And there was a lot of ridicule.

Scoble embraced, embodied, and promoted Glass to the greatest extent of any public figure. Along the way he found that most of us weren’t ready for this version of the future, including, it seems, Google.

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