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Kiss your Glass goodbye: Google mothballs techno-specs (for now)

Sales axed, team booted from X labs, but vows to return

Google is killing off its Glass Explorer program but insists this isn't the end for co-founder Sergey Brin's controversial sci-fi head-gear.

In a post to the official Glass Google+ account on Thursday, the Chocolate Factory said it will quit selling the current version of its spy-goggles to individuals on January 19, although it reportedly will still be available to developers and companies if they ask nicely.

At the same time, the online ad-slinger will move the Glass team out of its Google X experimental labs and into its own, independent division.

The new unit will continue to be headed by current Glass Project leader Ivy Ross, but Ross will in turn report to Tony Fadell, a former Apple exec and CEO of Google's Nest Labs smart thermostat division.

"Glass was in its infancy, and you took those very first steps and taught us how to walk," the Glass team wrote. "Well, we still have some work to do, but now we’re ready to put on our big kid shoes and learn how to run."

The move comes following months of rumors that Google was close to mothballing its Glass efforts, after the tech failed to inspire a thriving developer ecosystem.

When reporters polled 16 early Glass app makers in November, nine said they had given up on the platform, either due to lack of customers or because of the device's own limitations.

Left in the glovebox

And if developer enthusiasm toward Glass has cooled, public perception of the gadgets has seldom wavered far from a mix of ridicule and revulsion. Wearers have been hassled in bars, in movie theaters, and in their own cars, which surely must have left them pondering the wisdom of the $1,500 they spent to become Glass Explorers.

Even Brin himself, who for years had made a habit of showing up to high-profile events wearing the specs, was spotted at a Silicon Valley soiree in November sans Glass. When asked, he said he'd left his headset in his car.

Curiously, however, the backlash against Glass hasn't stopped a number of other companies from coming up with hopelessly nerdy, wearable solutions-in-search-of-problems of their own, including Baidu, Microsoft, Samsung, and Sony. None has roused even as much interest as Glass.

Once the Explorer project winds down, the Google's new Glass division will be working on the next generation of the tech. Although Wednesday's Google+ post said only that "you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready," but a new iteration is expected to launch sometime in 2015.

Among the rumored upgrades for Version 2 is a more powerful processor. The current version of Glass runs on an ARM-based OMAP chip from Texas Instruments, but the next revision is thought to be based on some sort of CPU from Intel.

It's also not clear whether future versions of Glass will be marketed as consumer products, or if Google plans to steer them toward business applications. While the specs aren't well-received at parties, they have won some converts in certain industries, such as healthcare. ®

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