Google is promising to make wearable computers into something everyone will want to have, not just a geeky curiosity. And with the Glass kernel becoming open source, that’s a promise developers can help back up.
Even though Google offered a kernel of access to the Google Glass source code, some people won’t be satisfied until they get the whole cob. A handful of developers have been publicly congratulating themselves for hacking Glass’ Apache License code, but they shouldn’t cheer too loudly. In response to boastful tweets and blog posts, Google engineer Stephen Lau wrote, “Not to bring anybody down…but seriously…we intentionally left the device unlocked so you guys could hack it and do crazy fun [stuff] with it. I mean, FFS, you paid $1500 for it…go to town on it. Show me something cool.”
Realizing the potential
Since the moment Google Glass was first mentioned outside of Google HQ, companies from all industries have been thinking up uses for this breakthrough gadget. In a terrific three-minute video, creative agency Playground envisions Glass as everything from a cutting-edge advertising medium to your new favorite workout companion.
New York-based developer, Chris Maddern, is also encouraging others to let their imagination run wild by releasing a template version of Google’s source code that allows you to create basic Glass apps with just a rudimentary knowledge of web code. All it takes are a few database tweaks and as little as fifteen minutes of your time.
Google Glass already has an HTML-based API, but it’s limited. Handing over the reigns to developers will bring a wave of new apps and modifications that may be just what Glass needs to win over the general market. Afterall, open-sourced platforms have always been one of Google’s biggest strengths. Take the Android OS, for example. Google knew the only way they’d be able to compete with Apple in the smartphone market would be to offer something the iPhone couldn’t (or wouldn’t). That thing ended up being creative freedom for developers and engineers all over the globe. Android’s app market quickly started outpacing Apple’s App Store, and as time went on, so did their sales.
Letting go, embracing “open”
Google’s going to have to fight the temptation to exert too much control over Google Glass. They’ve already banned porn apps, which is generally considered a smart PR move, but the evolution of technology has arguably been driven by unsavory uses. If they continue blackballing morally ambiguous applications, Google could ultimately end up strangling the platform, despite releasing their source code. Just because some people and businesses are already up in arms about Glass’ potential privacy violations, it doesn’t mean Google should play it entirely safe in other controversial areas.
If Google really wants to solidify Glass as the leading wearable technology, they can’t live off their first-to-market advantage forever. Their ultimate success will be determined by their ability to create a network similar to the Android market. There are plenty of tech companies out there capable of replicating the Glass hardware. Copying their ecosystem is another story.