Google Glass Is Not the Next Segway

Since it was first revealed in early 2012, Google Glass has been met with equal parts excitement, skepticism, and mockery. While Google itself had an underwhelming specialized gadget almost-launch with the Nexus Q, the comparison that leaps to people’s mind is the Segway, Dean Kamen’s futuristic…scooter. This is a somewhat fair comparison to make but it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Leading up to the fall 2001 unveiling, Segway, codenamed “IT” and “Ginger” was surrounded by secrecy. While a who’s who of celebrities and thinkers, including the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, were granted a private audience with Kamen and his invention, the rest of the world had only leaks and quotes to pass the time. Hearing only comments about how cities would change when IT was released, minds began to wander. Everything from a new Stirling engine to hovercraft technology was discussed about possible breakthroughs. Fantastic looking sketches began to surface in patent filings.

But at the end of the day, which incidentally was a morning (I know, I skipped school to see the big reveal) the Segway was just a standup scooter with a gyroscope so it wouldn’t tip over.

At $1500 for the Explorer Edition, Glass is not an impulse buy, world-changing gadget. But it is known. Right now Glass has very limited capabilities: taking photos and videos, using the headset in a Hangout, turn-by-turn navigation, and reading text messages/making phone calls by tethering to a smartphone to name a few. All of these features have been shown off since the initial unveiling.

The Segway? Hidden in a shroud of mystery to all but a few who could not say anything of substance about the unreleased device. Will Glass be a failure? Maybe. Will it find as much success as the Segway, a niche product that can find a home on city tours or a few other specialized uses? No reason it can’t. But no matter what the outcome, Glass is not the next Segway.