Google Glass is generating a lot of discussion – from fanboys to others coining the term glasshole. What surprised me in all of this is how quickly the fanboys showed up and how limited some people’s vision was for the technology. Technology predictions are notoriously difficult and fodder for jokes years later.
Some predictions are just limited
CNet’s Donald Bell put out his Top 5 Potential Uses for Google Glass.
- Face Recognition
- TV Enhancement
Bell is of course very snarky in the video, “You have every right to be ambivalent about this thing”. This probably explains why his list is rather limited.
I already get all the TV enhancement I need with my tablet. Biofeedback visualized in front of my eye might be nice but I already have a Nike FuelBand. What does Google Glass really offer here? Is it actually better than solutions I have right now?
Getting instructions on Google Glass seems like it could be nice and in some situations a better solution than a YouTube video. But what does it offer to see a meal prepared minute by minute? How can you account for a kitchen with a slow burner? How many times do you need to watch someone flip an omelet?
None of the uses are that imaginative nor practical outside of the obvious – navigation, face recognition, and the classic of just using it as a camera.
Fear of being filmed
This is overblown. Sure it’s annoying but so is someone tagging you on Facebook every thirty minutes. For that matter who would have thought people would share as much as they do on social networks. It’s not for everyone but it also isn’t that big of a deal.
Facial recognition is a similar issue. I wouldn’t mind if people used it to recognize me, especially if I’m at a party or networking event. They’re will also likely be mechanisms to block it. “Don’t want to be recognized? Service X will make sure your information is never passed along”.
I can see games jumping out to an early lead on the platform as they can generate buzz and quickly leverage what’s unique about Glass. However I doubt they’ll be much appeal outside small or independent developers. It will take years for Google Glass to reach any meaningful numbers and its most defining feature is location based. We’ve already seen a slew of location based game studios flame out on mobile. The reality is building a great game is tough, adding location to the equation only adds to the difficulty. I’m still hopeful though, I think Google Glass is ripe for interactive story based games.
A camera is the most practical use
Record your day – it’s something we’ve seen in science fiction movies for years. At I/O, Larry Page pointed it out if you have kids just taking pictures of them is great enough. I’m having a daughter myself and would buy a pair just for that. Sure I could use a camera but there’s something different about having the camera fade into the background.
Considering the battery life however, I doubt the dream of recording your day will be realized anytime soon. Until then I expect it to be used to record conversations, children, and things you would use a GoPro to record today.
I doubt voice commands will go very far on Google Glass
How many of us walk down the street taking phone calls on wireless headsets? Talking to control computers has always seemed cool. Bill Gates seemed obsessed with it, but experts always pointed out that the fastest way to get information into a computer is through a keyboard. So not only is talking to things odd but it isn’t always the most efficient. Touch, swipe, tapping – I can see all that working to control Google Glass but I doubt voice will be that common.
I can see tethering Google Glass to a phone becoming a very popular way to interact with it. This might become so common that it opens up games beyond “location based”.
What functions will Google Glass usurp?
The phone is quickly usurping other gadgets and form factors better suited to a particular use. A bike computer on your handlebar is more ideal than having a bike app on your phone in your pocket. However the ubiquity of the phone and the easy access to the network makes the phone more compelling than an old bike computer. What gadgets are at risk of Google Glass usurping if not because it’s better but it’s more convenient?
We still need to get more creative
We can make predictions where Google Glass will go but they might all look laughable in time. That is the fun of new technology though. We need to get over the fear that is holding those like Bell back and just explore the possibilities. Google is doing a good job of just trying to stay out of it – let the developers dream. They certainly aren’t hurting for developer attention at the moment. And if these early developers fail to come up with something revolutionary, maybe Google could spur some creative thinking through other measures. They could sponsor a screenwriting competition around Google Glass. Las Vegas did this for years trying to spur film development in the city, all you had to do was write a screenplay that included Las Vegas in 25% of it.