Google’s Project Glass: An Exercise In Mediocrity?

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So Google X founder Sebastian Thrun was on Charlie Rose last night showing off his latest creation, Project Glass. Which, if you haven’t seen by now, is quite possibly one of the most ambitious consumer products to come out of the Googleplex in recent memory. But until Thrun’s appearance on Rose, we didn’t actually know how the glasses would work other than the sizzle reel that was put together earlier this month.

A couple of things struck me as odd, though. Thrun never actually gave any voice commands during his demo of the glasses, while in the video everything was driven by voice. But that’s not what has me worried about Project Glass. During the interview, Thrun snapped a photo of Rose and uploaded it to his Google+ account. So far, it appears to work as advertised but take a look at the image quality and tell me whether or not it’s acceptable in this day and age. It’s not, it’s terrible.

But this is a much larger issue for Google and it’s one they don’t seem to be taking very seriously. At one point in Google’s history, the company we’re so beholden to actually made some really great products. Not that they were ever perfect, mind you. Google has grown complacent and comfortable with launching half baked products that they or others would eventually fix. Just look at Android, for instance. It’s still a work in progress, which is the fundamental issue with nearly every new Google product launched in the last few years.

Back to my original point – the optics on those Google glasses stink. Look at what Apple has been able to accomplish with the iPhone camera, especially the 4S. If there’s one takeaway that every product manufacturer needs to learn from Steve Jobs it’s that the marriage between hardware and software will always reign supreme. Sony is unable to replicate the iPhone 4S’s image quality in any of their smartphones with the same optics. The same could be said for Nokia’s Lumia 900 and its Carl Zeiss 8-megapixel camera, which, by the way, is advertised in commercials. Even HTC is making an effort to improve the optics on their devices with software tweaks and they seem to be working. The Titan II, for instance, has a pretty killer camera. But I digress.

Early on in the interview, Thrun admits that he likes taking photos and proved that Glass works. But at what point do you stop trying and innovating just because it works?

Glass has serious potential, whether it’s in the medical field for the handicapped or supplanting the Bluetooth headset wearing fashionistas but Thrun and his team have a long road ahead of them if this first public demo is any indication.

Be excellent again, Google. That’s all we ask.