Two years ago, I flew to Mountain View to cash in my golden tweet for what was being called a game-changer in the tech revolution and an assault device against personal privacy: Google Glass. Being a bleeding edge tech enthusiast, I was all in.
Twenty-four months later, the Explorer program is over and though not exactly by choice, so is my Glass usage. Glass was well-made and intuitive. If I could wear it every day I would love it; however, others would not, which is why I do not.
Google made an elegant product and a horrific vertical.
Horrific may seem like a strong word, but it is purposeful. The people who came up to me asking why I was wearing it and if I was recording them were truly scared, uneasy, and defensive. Despite the extensive coverage of Glass in the media, there was distrust about heads-up displays so much so that wearing Glass was similar to having a controversial T-shirt on: you needed to be constantly at the ready to explain, defend, and oftentimes debate.
It did not need to be that way. As a Glass Explorer, I think things could have been different. If I were the one to try and make it different, here is what I would have done:
- Brought down the cost. Part of what made Glass feel unobtainable was that it was financially unobtainable. The hardware did not warrant the steep price tag – even if the R&D cost did. The price tag immediately set Glass Explorers apart from the general public in a negative and pretentious way. At the consumer level, you cannot charge more than a thousand dollars for something that is in its humble beginnings and a luxury tech accessory.
- Advertised the ordinary. My favorite usage for Glass was more easily capturing presentation images, recordings, and whiteboard drawings during meetings without interrupting my concentration or the rest of the people in the room. When people categorize Glass with world travelers and NASA more than they see it as a useful tool for working moms to take better notes at a parent-teacher meeting, the device seems less relatable.
- Shed literal light on privacy concerns. You can clearly tell when someone with Glass is taking video because the screen lights up, but because the general public was not educated on Glass’ features in a clear and concentrated way, fear spread like wildfire. If there had been a small light on the headset that lit when people were recording, everyone could have relaxed a little. Although it is not ideal, features like this could have put the non-Glass wearing public at ease.
Launching a new category is no easy task. But, the lesson to be learned from Glass is not a new one: perception is reality and worry can overrule product.
Looking forward, I think Google’s pivot toward the business sector is smart, but they need to move quickly. There are acquisitions going on that point toward a competitor not far behind.
This article is a compilation of both my own ideas and conversations I have had with countless others while wearing Glass. Thank you to everyone who had educated and constructive conversations with me, greatly helping me understand the technology, the vertical, and the pros and cons of wearing bleeding edge technology on yo face.