Imagining a 'Google Glass is half full' world in 2016

Research predicts nearly 10 million shipments of Glass and similar devices over the next four years. Crave's Eric Mack shares what it will take to get there.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
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Eric Mack
3 min read
Vassar computer science professor Greg Priest-Dorman dons Glass. Google

By the time the next presidential election rolls around in the United States, millions of us could be watching the results on our Google Glass. That might not seem crazy, being that the election will be only months after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, which will be broadcast, viewed, and shared by many via Glass.

This is only a snippet of what the near future could hold if predictions made by research firm IMS come true.

IMS' most optimistic forecast finds that shipments of "smart glasses" -- including Glass and similar products from competitors -- could total almost 10 million worldwide over the next four years. The firm's projections show big jumps in shipments, from 434,000 units next year to more than 2 million in 2015 and 6.6 million in 2016.

Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

From now until 2015, IMS estimates shipments of smart glasses will be driven mostly by sales to developers, such as those who have been able to get their hands on the Google Glass Explorer Edition for $1,500 a piece. The firm predicts the success of Glass "will depend primarily on the applications developed for it. If developers fail to produce compelling software and uses for the devices, shipments could be significantly lower during the next several years."

Hopefully a developer is already working on the app that will put us in the driver's seat of the bobsled at next year's winter Olympics. We'll need that experience to get us ready for the full-blown Glass-bonanza I predict for the Olympics in Rio de Janiero in 2016.

"In fact, the hardware is much less relevant to the growth of Google Glass than for any other personal communications device in recent history," wrote Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at IMS, in an email. "This is because the utility of Google Glass is not readily apparent, so everything will depend on the appeal of the apps. ... Google is betting the house that developers will produce some compelling applications for Glass."

IMS also describes a more pessimistic scenario in which only about 1 million smart glasses will ship between now and 2016. The firm says this outlook will come to pass if Glass doesn't turn out to offer more than what we've already seen and is used by consumers mainly as a wearable camera device.

"The less frequently consumers interact with any personal communications device, the less valuable it becomes," said Ahadome.

So, there you have it, devs. The gauntlet has been thrown down; the challenge laid bare. To create a world where Glass reigns supreme, we're going to need some crazy apps.

Please build me something where I can watch the Olympics from the athlete's perspective, check out the athlete's past stats, and tweet about his/her performance and stats at the same time.

Oh, and I'm going to need to access all this information while using Glass to order and pay for the Starbucks latte that I'm about to walk up to the counter and grab.

Better get busy, folks. I can't wait for 2016.