Google is shutting down its Glass Explorer program and ceasing consumer sales of the $1,500 initial wearable devices on Jan. 19, as the Internet giant revamps its approach to the market.
The company announced the move in a post on Google+. The wearables project is “graduating” from the Google X R&D group, where it was incubated, the company said. It will become a standalone unit overseen by Tony Fadell, co-founder and CEO of Nest Labs, the smart-home device company Google acquired for $3.2 billion in cash a year ago; however, Google said, Glass is not becoming part of Nest.
Google Glass will continue to be headed by Ivy Ross, a former retailing exec and jewelry designer.
The Google Glass devices have a small screen embedded in the right lens to let users search the Web, pull up maps, read text messages, snap photos and record video, among other things. That last feature concerned the movie industry: Last fall, the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) updated antipiracy joint policy to prohibit recording by users equipped with Google Glass or other wearables in theaters.
Google, in its note to Google Glass beta users about the end of the Explorer program, said, “We’re continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready.”
The overall wearable-computing device market — including glasses, smartwatches like Apple Watch and fitness bands — is expected to grow dramatically in the next few years. Retail sales of smart wearable devices are projected grow from $4.5 billion in 2014 to $53.2 billion by 2019, according to British research firm Juniper Research.