Google Glass: Is the brand and concept already damaged beyond repair?

I have been rather enthusiastic about Google Glass. I am really pleased Google has spent so much time and effort pushing the platform and the concept. There is clearly a real value to the technology. 

This example that I came across of Glass being used to help hospital bound children experience life in a zoo was a phenomenal example of the possibilities.

However I can’t shake the feeling that the game is over for Glass, already. Before it’s even started, before it’s even into real world users. Has the brand and the whole face-wearable concept been totally destroyed by the dozens of stories from San Francisco over the past year?

I saw my first Glass in the wild a few weeks ago at Waterloo Station. A rather brave Googler had the temerity to stand on the concourse and stare up at the train timings and platform details. I went up to the guy and demanded he stop using old-world technology and call put he data he needed via his Glass. (“OK Glass.. which train should I use to get home?”). I knew the guy was a Googler — at least, I inferred he was a Google employee, given he looked young, funky, intelligent and was wearing a Google T-Shirt. The sort of chap who has definitely drunk the Google HQ koolaid. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m a huge user of Google services. He just looked seriously on-brand. 

The Glass unit attracted mild attention from those standing on the concourse around him. The chap did his best to try and ignore it. 

I’m sorry to say that, at the moment, my initial reaction to anyone I see wearing a Google Glass (who isn’t ACTIVELY engaged in doing something with the unit) is: Tosser.

Now. I am fully intending being converted. I am very much open to the idea. However, again, I have what I feel is a fundamental problem with Google Glass: It’s the same as wearing a bluetooth in-ear dongle. 

Bluetooth in-ear dongles are only approved by society for the following uses: 

Plumbers, or tradespeople who clearly need to routinely use their phone when their hands are obviously not available

Taxi drivers or anyone driving for a living (e.g. delivery drivers)

Anyone with a constant and verifiable need to talk on the phone without using their hands

The key is constancy. If you are not continually on and off the phone regularly, take the flipping thing off. That’s my view. That’s society’s view, right?

I think, sadly, the same view applies to Google Glass. 

If you’re welcoming me at Heathrow Airport or if you’re checking me into my hotel room by rolling your eyes, fair enough. If the technology use case is valid, I’m good with it.

The problem occurs when you just stand about wearing it. For no reason. 

If you’re not continually prompting Glass to do something or display something, what is the point in wearing it?

I do accept that this view has been formed prior to the product actually launching. I hope the price point is exceptionally keen. At $99 each, there could be immediate widespread acceptance. However at $899 (and equivalent sterling), folk are likely to react negatively to wearers of the technology. 

Only last week a chap got on to my train carriage wearing a Google Glass. 

“Oh dear,” I thought. 

Immediately I thought the guy was an arse.

I’m embarrassed to admit this. I wouldn’t normally do so. I am forcing myself to do so for the benefit of you, dear reader. If I don’t voice it, who else will? You can disagree with me in the comments.

So I immediately reacted negatively. I think the source of my negativity is to do with utility. The chap had no reason to be wearing it. Other than to be showing off. He wasn’t actively using the device. And I think that is probably the root of the issue: I don’t understand how to use it.

Oh, I have worn and played with Google Glass units. The technology itself is brilliant and the speech recognition first class. It’s the user model that is utterly new to me. 

And I’m currently reacting very badly to the idea of just wearing the unit in the hope that something interesting will happen so I can start winking (to take a photo) or so I can feel compelled to, er, start recording a video. 

The chap on the train had been standing on the platform for a good five minutes and I think he was already reaching his, “I’m feeling a bit of a dick” threshold as the train pulled into the station. I watched as he walked on to the train ahead of me and then, sitting down, he promptly took off his Glass unit and rested it on the table. 

Why?

Why did he wear it on the platform and then take it off on the train? ;-) 

Interesting times. I wonder what it will take for Glass to gain widespread acceptance.

I am keen to explore the next generation user model required for Glass. I’m rather interested in your opinions: Can you see yourself adding Glass to primary device manifest? 

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  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    David, excellent contribution — thank you! Do you think there’s a wider problem for the brand/concept? Or do you think we’ll get over it? I’m hopeful that we will!

  • daviddoherty

    There will always me people misusing new technology but I think the positioning Google gives the brand needs to be very carefully considered. Similar issues were initially experienced with mobile video calls.

    If Apple and network operators enabled emergency 112/999 services to accept on network FaceTime calls and gave callers always best connected priority network access I think people would immediately think about mobile video calls differently.

    If Google stepped in to ensure every paramedic in London had Google Glass (and could connect with specialists on demand) I think people would think differently about Google Glass:

    http://3gdoctor.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/how-cool-if-google-donated-google-glasses-to-paramedics.jpg

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Totally agree with you. Totally.

  • daviddoherty

    Great. Challenging question for you then. Would you feel different about the article above if I told you that the ‘Tosser’ in the Google T-Shirt was a visually impaired young lad who had travelled into London for work for the first time on his own without a guide dog. He was looking up because when he points the Google Glass camera at text an OCR app will read out the text through the bone conductive speaker on the arm of the frame. He was wearing the T-Shirt with Google on it not because he wanted to look seriously on-brand but because his mother still picks his clothes for him.

    ;)

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Ah hah — I included the word ‘tosser’ deliberately to get some emotions flowing.

    My reaction would have been completely different had the chap at Waterloo not been a fine stallion of a man.

    I think my current problem is I am not yet sold on the default continual use case. Of course that’s totally different for someone who is visually impaired and therefore getting tremendous demonstrable value from the technology.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I really really like that approach David.

  • maethorechannen

    I remember a time when almost anyone using a mobile phone was considered a tosser, probably for much the same reasons as to why you’re finding glassholes to be irritating. Glass is still in the big, bulky and very expensive “I’M ON A TRAIN” stage. When Glass (and by Glass, I mean generic “digital eyewear”, not a particular product) becomes sleeker and affordable society will quickly forget it’s discomfort with the technology.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Ok that is also very good feedback and good perspective. Although I’d counter with saying I still react badly to anyone conducting a loud mobile conversation on the train!

  • maethorechannen

    There will still be ways to be a glasshole even when most people wear them. Take wearing them in the men’s room – I doubt that will ever be acceptable (though I’m not sure what happens if/when Glass becomes a contact lens).

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