If you followed the Google Glass saga, you remember that everything started out pretty hunky dory. There was an exciting demo that included people jumping out of a plane. Then there were developers in line to pay $1,500 to have a play with them and build apps for the hardware.
It was a developer-only program. What could go wrong?
In the early days of Glass, numerous folks close to the project complained openly to me about one thing over and over again. Why would someone give a pair of Glass to well-known technology evangelist and former Microsoft employee Robert Scoble? I knew exactly what they were talking about.
The “shower” incident.
The BuzzFeed headline? “This Photo Of A Man Showering With Google Glass Will Haunt You For The Rest Of Your Life”
And the photo. Oh, the horrible horrible photo:
There are many who still work at Google who shudder at the thought of Glass in the shower with Scoble. In a way, it stalled all of the goodwill momentum the company had built up around the futuristic project. Here it was, on this regular guy’s face. In the shower. Getting ruined. For no real reason, honestly.
Glass was now for nerds. Geeks. They were a toy. A joke.
Today? Virtual reality might have had its “shower moment.” An upcoming Time magazine cover, featuring Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus Rift, made its debut:
Uh oh. People are having a field day with it already. There are animated GIFs, jokes, facepalms and, yes, the not-so-fond reminder of that horrible day in Glass history.
VR is a meme. Again. SHIT.
You see, when introducing new technology to regular folks, which is obviously essential to bringing something mainstream, there’s a momentum that must be kept up to keep them interested before it gets into their hands. We’re a few years away from mom and dad asking for a VR headset, but not a few years away from them being interested in them or wanting to try yours out.
Oculus, in particular, had done a killer job bringing virtual reality to mainstream conversations. The fact that it was acquired by Facebook didn’t hurt. Maybe it is cool. Maybe it will be mainstream.
This cover story puts the weakest part of VR on display, its goofy full-face-mask nerdery. Who reads TIME? Normals. And people don’t like change — especially when it comes to personal technology.
This particular cover uses the term liberally and it’s not a good look for Oculus, and by association…VR. Instead of being a cool alternative to staring at a phone or computer, an enhancement of your current perspective, it’s a spaceman-looking appendage for Star Trek fans.
The “shower incident” put a bunch of people off of the idea of wearing something on their face, whether it was meant for them or not. Glass isn’t “dead,” but it will probably end up being used in an enterprise setting primarily. It was “dead” before it was “alive.”
Let’s hope the same doesn’t go for virtual reality.
UPDATE: 11 minutes after publishing…there’s this. Pretty good, Internet.