Opinion: Why has Google Glass pioneer Babak Parviz jumped ship to Amazon?

Opinion: Why has Google Glass pioneer Babak Parviz jumped ship to Amazon? Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter (@Gadget_Ry) or Mastodon (@gadgetry@techhub.social)

Amazon started off selling books from a garage and quickly grew to become the world’s largest retailer and the industry leader when it comes to the Cloud. If I was to describe Amazon, I’d say the company has a mix of the traits of their closest competitors.

These traits include; Microsoft’s ambition, Google’s craziness, and Apple’s ability to approach things differently.

Mobile devices are an arena in which Amazon is only just starting to move into; and cautiously. The recently-announced ‘Fire Phone’ has been widely-criticised, by myself included, as being a device which mainly exists just to sell you more products and services from Amazon.

So why has Babak Parviz, a pioneer responsible for Google Glass, decided to jump ship and head for the shores of Amazon? It’s about retail, and company direction.

I’ve only started to use Google Glass recently, and I’m not sold, in its current form. I’d imagined the screen would be out of view until you look at it but instead it’s in your peripheral vision which limits its usage. A friend spoke of buying Glass as a keen mountain biker and the ‘Strava’ app looked perfect to keep track of his progress whilst heading downhill at breakneck speeds. Long story short, he removes it to prevent him actually breaking his neck.

He tells me that he finds the £1500 device most useful when in a conversation. When he gets a notification part way through he hears a non-distracting beep alerting him to it which allows him to finish his conversation and then proceed to give the “OK, Google” command to show the message.

Not long after I speak to him I get a vibration on my wrist and look at a notification on my £85 Pebble smartwatch and wonder why I need to strap something to my face for that?

Personally, I don’t see Glass gaining mass appeal without some serious alterations. I’ve been thinking how I would improve the device to justify its price-tag; and to do so I would have to be far more ambitious, crazy, and approach things differently than Google.

I’ve been speaking like an opponent of augmented reality, but it’s quite the opposite. I’m a keen gamer and Sci-Fi fan so I dream daily about its exciting untapped potential. One of the best examples of AR I’ve seen is in this “Augmented City” concept video. This wouldn’t be possible in Google Glass, and I don’t think Google has any intention of making such a product.

Amazon on the other hand wants to sell you products. One of the biggest features of the company’s Fire Phone is the ability to recognise objects to purchase them. What if everything you looked at you could find out more information about, and more importantly for Amazon, ultimately buy?

Facebook wants to create a completely virtual world for socialising. Google wants to provide a platform for useful apps. Amazon wants to turn the world into its store. Parviz will have more freedom at Amazon to further the work he started with Glass at a company less synonymous with techies. Plus, who else can push to consumers like Amazon?

At the Wearable Technologies Conference in San Francisco, Parviz said that Glass was “not the definitive answer to the future of computing.” He also said that whilst Glass “on every head” was still possible, he doesn’t see it happening in at least 15 years.

In other words, he also doesn’t see Glass gaining mass appeal with Google’s current direction. It’s Google’s own latest platform, Android Wear, which is the company’s current biggest competitor to Glass. That’s a problem internally let alone in the pitch to customers.

Babak Parviz is speaking at Apps World in London which runs from 12th – 13th Nov 2014. We may hear more about what he’s currently working on at Amazon… Don’t miss out!

Do you have any other thoughts why Parviz left Google to move to Amazon? Let us know in the comments.

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