Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Is Google Glass a fading blip on the technology screen?

At the end of 2014—the proclaimed Year of the Wearable—where is the consumer release of Google Glass? Epic failure? 

Naturally, I’m inclined to say no. As a Glass Explorer I have spent my own time and money testing the beta eyewear for a year and a half and researching wearables. There is no failure in this learning opportunity for me or, I’m sure, for Google and others in the wearables market.

What worked

Having information suspended in front of your eyes feels more futuristic than holding a smartphone in your hand or wearing a band on your wrist. I like the fact that Glass tethers to multiple branded phones, not only Google or Android phones. What really fells different is being hands-free.

I certainly don’t know if Google will make a wide consumer release of Glass. But I am sure the company has learned from all the input about how people use and develop applications for wearables.

What didn’t work

The “killer app” for consumer acceptance evades us, except perhaps eyewitness video—photographing your baby’s first steps or a first-person view of an extreme sport attempt. Google offered the means for developers and users to come up with applications for real life. Some interesting ideas emerged. I’m not counting games that require you to move like a bobble-head.

The hands-free advantage of Google Glass almost disappeared as more smartphones recognized voice instructions and talked back. A phone-as-personal-assistant seems friendly, or at least not as unnerving as the person next to you wearing Glass. Besides, snooping via Glass is harder to ignore at this point than surveillance cameras or surreptitious phone cameras. Google continues to explore, with some success, the use of Glass in niche business markets where hands-free is useful.

The initial audio interface didn’t achieve what I’d hoped. Transmitting sound through bone vibration just didn’t work on different-shaped heads. Given the input choice of speaking to air or tapping the side of Glass, I usually end up tapping.

Why I did it

What could wearables do for future improvement of employee communication? Here was a chance to test a promising technology, just in case I didn’t live long enough to see wearables change lives for the better. I remember testing the Internet, even before the World Wide Web, and piecing together ideas for interconnected networks for average workers. Yet it took decades to evolve into intranets.

Wearables will take a while to evolve as well, and probably into a form that will make Google Glass, as cyborg nouveau, seem primitive. Let’s keep gazing further in 2015.

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