15 Apr Will Google Glass actually change anything?
Google have done a sterling job of building hype surrounding the product that it hopes will revolutionise the way we interact with technology.
It’s got people talking and it’s attracting the interest of technology fans and technophobes across the world. Why? Because “it looks like something from the future” as BBC Newcastle’s breakfast host Charlie recently declared. Will Google Glass be to this decade as mobile phones were to the last, and the internet the decade before that?
The answer is no.*
The internet and mobile telecommunications allowed us to interact in profoundly new ways. They gave us cheaper, high quality communication across the world in an instant. They allowed us to share information and media with consummate ease. They filled a gaping hole in the market, and provided us with the solution to a need. Most importantly, almost everyone needed or wanted it.
Google Glass does not fit these criteria. For those of you who do not know what it is, Google glass is essentially a piece of headgear which augments our interactions with the world around us. It is an optical head-mounted display. The problem is: it does not really provide us with any real functionality that doesn’t already exist in a mobile phone. Much of the promo material for the last few years, such as this promotional video, have focused on showing how Google Glass can send texts and call people hands-free. Which is handy, yes. But hardly revolutionary. You can already do that in most cars where the need exists for many millions. True, you can record video – which you can’t do in a car with your phone legally – but I can’t see the Google Glass interface being legal to drive with for long anyway.
The promotional videos often feature people recording videos in situations in which they couldn’t normally do so. This includes spinning their children around in the park, sky diving and even travelling in light aircraft cockpits.
Now, forgive the cynicism, but is this really a need for the masses? The number of people who find themselves in a situation in which both their hands are being used, say carrying something, to access their mobile phone (which coincidentally does all of the same things), and have the need to either capture video, take a picture or send a text through Glass is probably not enormous.
This sounds a little like sour grapes, I’ll admit. Google Glass is very exciting, and the possibilities are exciting also. I may well be proved wrong, but I don’t see this particular innovation carrying the mass appeal of mobiles and internet access. For starters, I imagine that Glass is going to make more than a few people very edgy. Either because they’ll be concerned their friend isn’t listening to a word they’re saying cause they’re actually browsing the web through their headset, or that someone is recording what they’re up to covertly. There are certainly a few privacy concerns, considering how subtly it is possible to record video on Google Glass.
Until it starts to do things that mobile phones cannot do – and there has been talk of medical uses such as monitoring blood sugar for diabetics – then it will not have people running out to snap your hands off for one. Well, not aside from the faithful core of tech enthusiasts. Even then, Apple and Samsung are battling it out on the smart watch front, which will probably offer many of the same ‘health checker’ functionality.
Neither is it cheap, with prices expected to begin in the notoriously-cheap-for-technology USA at at least $1,000.
In truth, I don’t think Google Glass ticks enough boxes in the checklist to ensure it’s going to spearhead the next technological evolution. It’s cool, it’s nifty, and it’s very easy to use. But it’s also very expensive, there are going to be privacy concerns, and seems to strike me as more of a luxury item than something which will revolutionise the way we communicate.
* I think.