Google’s $1500 cyborg glasses have made the scene and are creating quite a sensation. There’s plenty to like about them including the potential to be a valuable aide but there are some issues that need to be addressed as well. Here’s a brief report on what we’ve seen so far.
Comedians Are Having a Field DayFrom the SNL skit where Fred Armisen couldn’t get Google Glass to recognize the password “peacock,” to a Tumblr site featuring white men wearing Google Glass, to an Onion parody listing features of Google Glass that include, “constant real-time video stream of whatever’s in front of you,” and “location-sensing technology automatically calls nearest emergency personnel when distracted wearer is hit by car, train, bus, or cyclist,” and even a “little fan to keep your eye cool,” Google’s Glass, as pioneers often do is definitely getting its share of the arrows.
Cyborg Glasses Are Nothing NewTo be fair there’s plenty to be impressed with in Google’s modern-day version of cyborg glasses from the engineering involved in cramming all that technology into a pair of glasses to the potential of having an intelligent “agent” at your beck and call.We’ve seen cyborg glasses before and we’ve watched how augmented reality tried to pick up where virtual reality left off but in an industry where timing is everything maybe Google has picked the right time for their cyborg product.
Silicon Valley Venture Capitalists Establish a “GFund”Some people feel Google Glass represents a major opportunity to create a whole new industry. In fact, the recently announced “Glass Collective” is an investment partnership including Silicon Valley visionaries including Mark Andreessen and John Doerr whose VC firm Kleiner Perkins had previously established an “iFund” for iPhone and iPad apps and an “sFund” for social startups. Despite the all the enthusiasm around Google Glass, Doerr admits, “this platform is so new, so early, and so unlike anything we’ve seen before that it’s impossible to make any predictions.”
Google is Full of Passionate IntensityIf you haven’t seen the Google Glass simulation from Google you might want to get the perspective from someone using Google Glass or even more info from Google that shows how cool Glass is. Google appears totally committed to making Glass succeed with rumors surfacing recently of plans for a retail store to sell Google Glass. Should Apple be worried about Glass Stores?
Will Google Glass Invigorate the Contact Lens Industry?Among the problems early reviewers of Glass have noted is difficulty using them by people who wear glasses. Here’s a rundown of some of problems we’ve read and heard about most of which should be able to be addressed with a little engineering work or aftermarket accessories:
Don’t work well for people with glasses. We’ve heard people say if you use Google Glass without your glasses it’s hard to focus on the projected display and if you try and wear them over your glasses they don’t feel right.
Can’t adjust anything like volume. Reviewers have commented that you can’t adjust basic things like display brightness and volume or disable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Ear pieces don’t fold making it harder to store when not wearing. Unlike regular glasses that fold and store in your pocket or pocket book, Google Glass may spawn an industry of lanyards so you can wear them around your neck.
Poor battery life. We’ve read that with average use Google Glass users are getting around three to five hours of battery life which seems reasonable however we suspect that time could be affected by things like recording videos.
Display isn’t that great. Reviewers so far have been unimpressed by the 640 x 360 projection display which sometimes introduces artifacts like rainbowing. Some people say the display is also hard to see in bright light.
Voice commands and speech recognition is spotty. As users who can’t even get Siri to work reliably, we can understand how Google Glass users are complaining about this aspect of the product.
Privacy Concerns Are Going to Be Huge ChallengeWe wonder if Google anticipated the backlash it would get over Google Glass and privacy concerns. According to an article in the New York Times, Google Glass has already been “pre-emptively banned by a Seattle bar,” and Las Vegas casinos are reminding everyone that they “will not allow people to wear Glass while gambling or attending our shows.” Personally we think Google Glass won’t threaten anyone’s privacy any more than smartphones and social media already have. Of course, you never know what could happen if malicious code made it into Glass that for example, transmitted everything it saw and heard to someone other than the owner.
The Beginning of a New Glass EcosystemWe’ve seen a lot of references to big product flops like the Apple Newton or the Segway along with Google Glass but we feel this is the beginning of a new product category that will include other wearable computing devices like the rumored Apple iWatch. Already developers are busy using the Google Mirror API to create “Glassware” which Google hopes to use to create the “next great mobile computing experience.” We’ve even read about one developer who created an app called “Winky” that bypasses gestures and voice commands to allow a wink to snap a picture. We also hear that Cydia creator, Jay Freeman of iPhone jailbreaking fame has already rooted Google Glass. Unless something major crops up to derail Glass we expect to see a whole new ecosystem grow up around Glass and Android too, with apps and third party products just like we’ve seen with Apple’s iPhones and iPads.