It seems incredible to me that Google Glass is two years old. That we’ve had the technology for two whole years and whilst there’s been press about the project, it’s become another of Google’s wacky projects that is something of an also-ran. Except, no it isn’t as I’ll come on to write about. But first, let me reintroduce Glass just in case my readers are unfamiliar with the project. You see, Glass is the first of Google’s Project X devices to launch into the market. It’s a wearable piece of Android technology that is controlled by our voice and tapping the unit. It projects information through a screen set above our eyeline and connects to the wider world via built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. The unit contains a dual core processor and 16 GB of storage, plus a camera. It’s designed to be an augmented reality device and has many real world applications, which I’ll detail.
Reuters recently ran an article proclaiming that Google Glass is a commercial failure and worse, it won’t be a success. This is missing the point: Glass isn’t designed to be a commercial success. Google were never expecting to sell two million Glass units to Explorers as it’s designed as a prototype into wearable technology to demonstrate what it can do and to get developers thinking about possible projects. We’ve seen other projects that have taken their inspiration from Glass, such as the smart helmet. Glass is the potential forerunner to a great many additional wearable devices that can be used for all sorts of leisure and professional activities. And a great example of this is how Glass can be used for education purposes in the medical field – something I’m involved with. A doctor wearing Glass can show students live action from the eyes’ perspective and provide two way commentary.
Why the negativity associated with Glass? It appears to be behavioural. Essentially, people are scared of the radical change that is involved wearing a smartphone on our face rather than in our hands. To my readers; do you feel weird talking to your ‘phone in public? Okay, harassing Siri was fun for the first few minutes, but if you’re on a bus or train, you’re almost certainly not going to start saying, “okay Google, text my wife I love her and to light the candles, I’m coming home” because it’s way too awkward. We are not at the Star Trek ideal yet; we don’t want to walk up to a computer (or tap something on our shirt) and give voice commands. Not yet, anyway; but the adoption of smartwatches will start to change this.
Another fly in the ointment is how many businesses are banning Google Glass as a product. One example from the summer has UK cinemas banning Glass for privacy concerns. Never mind that almost all ‘phones these days have cameras, shoot some smartwatches do. And if I really want to bring a camera into a cinema I’ll find a way. We also have the farce of people driving wearing glass being busted by the law enforcement agencies, who turn a blind eye to executives wandering all over the road trying to figure out how to change station on their fancy touchscreen built into the dashboard of their BMW 7-Series. Ultimately, the perception of people has to change and I am sure it will.
There’s also plenty of developer support. There are nearly a hundred applications on the official web site, which is a lot for a brand new, state-of-the-art project that is generally only available for the wealthy geeks amongst us. No discredit to Glass Explorers! Yes, we’ve seen plenty of high profile staff leavers from Glass, but Google remains committed to the project with hundreds of engineers working on it. They’ve appointed a former Calvin Klein executive to head up the project, Ivy Ross, a sign that Google recognise Glass needs to look socially acceptable.
I believe the problem is that Glass is years ahead of its time. Just as back in 1999, the BlackBerry smartdevices were laughed at by most people, then ten years later everybody has a smartphone, so I am sure it will be with Glass. It will likely take less time. And the resulting devices likely will be cousins of Glass, but wearable technology is coming. It may arrive first in the medical, corporate and engineering market, where it can be used to guide users using augmented reality technology, but it’s coming soon. Future versions of Glass will be smaller, sharper, faster and better equipped. Keep the faith.