My latest piece for Glass Almanac, if you’re so inclined. 🙂
Babak Parviz, one of the leaders behind the Google X project and Google Glass, confirmed his move to Amazon on his Google Plus profile over the weekend.
The only time I ever hear of anyone using Google Plus, btw: its own employees. 😛
There is little detail on what Parviz may be doing over at Amazon, but people who have been paying attention to Amazon’s new product announcements may be able to guess. On June 18, Amazon announced that it will be releasing the Amazon Fire, its first smartphone. Optics designers like Parviz can could help propel these type of devices.
I can see Amazon having interest in tapping into the wearables market, whichever direction that ends up going. Amazon has shown a propensity for exploring the same kind of potential moonshots as Google has (albeit to a much smaller degree) with delivery drones, on-demand delivery etc.
“I’m sure Google would love this to be a consumer technology, from a scale perspective, but I’m just not sure it is,” said Chris Curran, chief technologist for the United States advisory practice of PwC, a business consulting firm. “It’s a technology that’s searching for problems to solve, and it’s really a matter of where do the problems emerge?” he added.
I don’t agree. I think the problem of smartphone/device distractibility is an acute problem that becomes more pressing with every day that passes as we become more and more reliant on pulling out the phones in our pocket. Wearable technology in general (smartwatches, bands etc.) is an attempt at solving that so that we can make use of the technology at our fingertips in a more perfunctory way. So is Glass.
Unfortunately, Glass doesn’t solve that problem well enough (and at low enough cost) for it to make sense for 90% of consumers. At least not yet.
From the Designers of Things blog:
It’s interesting to see a heads-up display specific for driving in light of the backlash Google Glass has received when used in the car, but this isn’t the first wearable HUD for people on the move. Vancouver’s Recon Instruments has already seen success with its HUD for snowboarders and skiers, the Recon Snow. And Recon’s upcoming wearable for bicyclists, the Recon Jet, is a much anticipated device for later this year.
(added the below as a comment while it’s pending moderation on the Glass Almanac site)
I think this is interesting but largely inconclusive. We all know the texting-while-driving statistics are through the roof (6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk, if you go by NHTSA’s data) but while it may be safer to operate Glass than a smartphone, the litmus test ought to be whether or not its still safe to drive with period.
The criteria for the study also matters greatly in terms of activity. Was he simply getting information relayed to him passively through Glass’ text-reading functionality? Or was he actively using the device to cycle through cards or browse e-mails/tweets & other content? The latter isn’t just something that can be noticed peripherally: it requires you to actively look at it. Which of course means you’re looking away from the road.
Perhaps a “Driving Mode” that limits functionality would help alleviate these concerns for people driving. But unless there’s a signaling mechanism by which the device makes this clear to traffic & highway patrol, that doesn’t solve the issue. Which of course goes back to privacy concerns over law enforcement knowing what you’re doing with the device etc. etc.
As usual, Glass is asking questions of society faster than society can answer those already in the queue. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses.
Harrowing privacy concerns have been a staple of Glass since it came into being. There are going to be people who avoid it simply because of matters like this. Hard to blame them. It doesn’t help that the founders of the app aim to make this opt-in by default. Conversely, something like this really would be helpful for networking in the context of big events. For years, startups have been trying to find something that would kill the business card. This could potentially do it. But do the shady use cases outweigh the useful?
Investor Fred Wilson spoke at the Le Web conference in Paris last week and one of the topics brought up was whether Google Glass was ready for mainstream adoption yet. He argued that it wasn’t, as it was “too primitive and awkward,” and that most people weren’t comfortable enough wearing it around. This is a common point of contention and one that’s grounded in at least a modicum of truth. Yet at the same time, I also feel it’s slightly overblown. In Fred’s defense, he did intimate that Glass (or something eventually baked into current eyewear) would catch on eventually. Which is more than can be said of many Glass critics who feel its perceived dorkiness will ever prevent it from becoming a mainstream technology. That it isn’t fashionable enough etc. I think that analysis ultimately misses the mark.
This will sound like a geek’s oversimplification of fashion. And it is to a degree. But bear with me and think about this. How does anything become fashionable or trendy? Two things:
1.) There’s an underlying utility with what’s being worn, whether that be real or perceived
2.) There are a lot of other people wearing/using it, particularly those who are known in the public eye as early adopters or trendsetters (often celebrities)
The first is where Glass, in its current incarnation, is more likely to fall down. There needs to be enough utility and functionality in the device to get people using it on a regular basis the same way they use a mobile phone. In fact, this was a common refrain for years as to why smartphone adoption lagged until the iPhone’s arrival: for most people, there just wasn’t enough that the early smartphones provided to justify the mark-up over a feature phone.
However, the issue of “dorkiness” is nothing new when it comes to adoption of technology. Everyone thought cell phones were ridiculous at the time; think of that Michael Douglas photo from Wall Street of the huge brick cell phone.
Same goes for Bluetooth headsets. Nobody in their right mind would be seen with one of those things. Until one out of every five people you ran into on the street was wearing them.
The most prominent example I can think of in today’s landscape is the phablet. You know, those awkward handsets that have a form factor somewhere between your standard smartphone and a full-sized tablet. And surely no one wants to be awkward. Even Flurry said back in April of this year that its data supported phablets occupying a very small portion of the smartphone landscape. However, fast forward to last month and while they still seem to be a comparatively small piece of Samsung’s overall smartphone business, it looks like phablets as a whole are going to occupy a heck of a lot more than just a niche portion of the market, especially in fast-growing economies like China.
Dorky technology can become non-dorky very fast if there’s a compelling reason to use it and if people you know and respect use it, be it your immediate social network or those who may otherwise have a high degree of influence on your purchasing behavior. Most of you reading this will cringe but if it was a Hollywood celebrity or famous artist caught in an awkward position wearing Glass instead of Scoble, I think you’d be hearing a different conversation right now.
What do you think it will take for Glass to gain mainstream acceptance?
If you’re a sports fan, you’ll laugh at the irony of the Dolphins being involved here, considering the Richie Incognito brouhaha. And of course the remarks are similar to the cultural reactions Glass gets everywhere, especially with regards to recording, since the tell signs are more than capable of being obscured, especially in a crowded setting. But I think these questions get especially meaningful when it comes to the relationship between the press and those in the public eye, whether they’re athletes, CEOs, politicians etc. If Glass or some other eyewear-centric wearable computing reaches critical mass, what impact will that have on information sharing in interviews and the like? Obviously, pocket recorders and other methods have been around for generations but the hands-free nature of eyewear computing makes it a bit easier to do something nefarious.