It’s been more than a month since Google announced that it was going to stop selling its wearable headset Google Glass.
We spoke to source close to the situation about what it was like watching the product go from beta to off the table — Here’s their timeline of Glass’s rise and fall:
- In spring 2013, the first Google Glass “Explorers” started receiving their $US1,500 devices. They could pick-up a pair at one of Google’s designated Glass “Basecamps,” located in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and London. Visiting Basecamp was a swanky affair — Explorers were served drinks and treated like royalty while Google employees gave them a primer on how to use the expensive new products.
- Because of the secretive nature of Glass, many of the first employees responsible for working at those Basecamps were hired without knowing what they would be doing. During interviews, they had to practice pitching a random Google product. It wasn’t until the second day of training after being hired that they knew what they would actually be working with Glass.
- There was so much early buzz around Glass that the job was incredibly exciting. Basecamp employees gave dozens of demos per week and would get to give special demos in cities like Detroit, Austin, and Washington DC.
- It was clear that there were a lot of kinks in the product, but people were generally still very enthusiastic. At first.
- The “This is gonna be huge!” mentality started fading pretty quickly. As Nick Bilton recently reported for The New York Times, Glass was still an early prototype and the engineers working on it knew it “wasn’t even close to ready for prime time.” Tech reviewers described it as “the worst product of all time” and Explorers gave Basecamp employees tons of feedback on things that needed fixing.
- Customer complaints were generally taken into consideration as rapidly as possible, our source says. “The product changed so much from when I first started working on the project until I left.” But interest in the device started to wane all the same — the bugs, impracticality, and privacy concerns made Glass underwhelming (and easy to mock).
- “I think it was the wrong way to put out a product,” our source says. “We were having people pay $US1,500 to tell us how to fix this thing.”
- It was clear that Glass wasn’t yet going to meet all the pre-launch hype. “We kept missing the benchmarks that we had set,” our source says. “All the grand plans that we had at the beginning just didn’t materialise.”
- At the fancy showroom, the number of appointments started to wind down, from peaks of 60 per day to far less. Basecamp employees started getting cut. Our source started with about 80 other employees, but people kept getting let go in waves as demand decreased and people could choose to get it shipped to their homes instead of having to come to one of the basecamps. Morale of employees started dropping as the buzz around Glass wore off.
- In January 2015, Google announced that it was ending its Explorer program and would no longer sell its initial version of Glass. The product was broken out of Google X and Nest CEO and former Apple-guru Tony Fadell was put in charge.
- “I think a lot of people saw it coming,” our source says. “People just weren’t’t ready to wear this thing on their face. It didn’t normalize the way they anticipated.”
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