Is Google Glass about to take off? It sure seems like it according to new research published by IHS. The company said 50,000 “smart glass” units shipped last year—although we don’t know exactly what product it’s referring to since Google Glass is only now shipping—and that an estimated 9.4 million devices will have shipped by 2016. IHS believes 6.6 million units will ship in 2016 alone.
It’s tough to predict these numbers, though, because the technology is still in its infancy and valid use cases are still unproven. If Google can price Glass low enough it has the potential to take off significantly, but if it remains priced around $1,500 will consumers really see a need? IHS says the real success story will depend on the applications that developers make for such products.
“The applications are far more critical than the hardware when it comes to the success of Google Glass,” IHS senior analyst Theo Ahadome explained. “In fact, the hardware is much less relevant to the growth of Google Glass than for any other personal communications device in recent history. This is because the utility of Google Glass is not readily apparent, so everything will depend on the appeal of the apps. This is why the smart glass market makes sense for a software-oriented organization like Google, despite the company’s limited previous success in developing hardware. Google is betting the house that developers will produce some compelling applications for Glass.”
IHS admits that just one million units could ship through 2016 if smart glass products are simply hands-free cameras and don’t really provide a true augmented reality experience. “In this case, smart glasses will be mainly used for recording sports and other non-casual events, like jumping out of a plane, as demonstrated at the Google I/O developer conference in 2012,” the company said. We hope the technology takes off, because there are a lot of potentially useful scenarios for consumers.