During the recent Gooibiz #Gooination tour of Tokyo I had the opportunity to try out Google Glass for a few days. My experiences were mixed but overall positive. Google Glass has a great deal of potential but regular consumers are likely to pass on these until Google can make a more compelling argument for why they exist.
Welcoming Our Robot Overlords
While the technorati will find a lot of to love about Glass, it doesn’t offer a great deal of functionality beyond a slightly faster (if a little low-res) camera and some interesting social media applications. Tweeting or posting pictures to Google+ is fairly seamless and I found myself taking a lot more pictures and videos of what was going on around me. Glass does achieve one thing: it does encourage you to chronicle your life online in greater detail than before — a possible boon to the ghost town that is Google+.
Breaking Ice like a Cyborg
Glass’s greatest function at the moment is as an ice-breaker. Loads of people have opened up and started talking to us while we have been going around taking photos. Compared to our other shoots we had to do a lot less work before people where happy to get in front of the camera. A surprising range of people — even a sumo wrestler — have commented but young tech-savvy people in particular have come up and asked questions and even asked to take photos.
Perhaps the most obvious function of Google Glass is as a signal to other people that you are a person interested in technology on the frontier of social acceptability. However this will only last until they are finally released on the market.
Glass hitting the market will be a moment of truth for Google. However, until Google Glass makes the experience more seamless popular adoption of Glass is unlikely. Unless lots of bespectacled cyborgs are walking down the street, social acceptability is likely to come slowly. Google Glass is very impressive when it works — and you can control it with head movements, winking and voice commands — but as soon as you have to start navigating the menus with the touch pad it feels like using a pre-smartphone era cell phone.
If Google can expand the seamless functionality it will at least appeal to the tech-savvy.
An Opportunity for Small Businesses
If Glass is ever going to become widely adopted, Google should also allow businesses to interact with their customers in a more direct, geographic and physical sense using Google Glass.
Walking into a shop should alert me to sales, nodding inside the shop should allow me check in and taking a photo and tagging the store should give me a discount. I should be able to do all of this without touching the touch pad.
The possibilities haven’t really been explored at all yet. The immediacy of Glass allows users to quickly take in simple information and is therefore much more suited to environmental triggers.
It will be interesting to see what direction Google goes with Glass and how different the final consumer model will be from the prototype. I am cautiously optimistic that Google can improve the UI aspects to make it a more satisfying experience.