Google is on a huge marketing drive for its much vaunted Google Glass product. I debated about describing it as a product, as you cannot buy Glass yet and there is no commercial release date planned (as best anyone, even senior Googlers, seems to know!) and no price point.
What does this tell us about the Google Glass plan and where they are in the innovation cycle? Why is Google pushing this product so hard? I suspect you will find a very trendy and extremely popular Glass stand at most technology and innovation trade shows and conferences around the world, yet there is no external plan to release. There is clearly demand, the product exists – I played with it today – and far less mature prototypes have been released on the world.
Quizzing the team on the ground in Brussels at the EUIC 2014 I was informed that right now the plan is to distribute Glass to controlled evangelists within the Google Explorer initiative, sports people, targeted hackers, other celebs, to (according to Google PR) help to define the product use case and requirements, or alternatively to hype it up even more, build the brand and create an even bigger buzz (am I wrong?).
So away from the marketing and PR fanfare, what was the initial reaction to Glass? The pitch was interesting; essentially Google seems to be promoting Glass as the cure to the need to be continuously connected, for our drive for snippets of information and to allow us to consume this in the least obtrusive way possible – I am paraphrasing the marketing blurb I was given at the show. I am not sure that is the pitch. For one, there is nothing unobtrusive about the product, it doesn’t look bad, but it certainly isn’t discreet. Using it also isn’t discreet, you either have to tap it (people don’t normally walk the streets tapping the side of their heads) or speak to it (granted, most of us do nowadays walk down the street talking to ourselves via hands free Bluetooth connectivity to our pocketed mobile phones).
All that said, I think that there is a huge application for this product. It does take a bit of getting used to. Most of the time I suspect you would filter out the prism that is the window into the Glass data world, but when there is content to share and consume it was noticeable by the odd upward gaze of the person in front of you that they were reading something and not directly paying attention to you any more. I would probably buy Glass if they released it now out of pure curiosity – depending on the price point of course, but Google is notoriously affordable with its new technology, so I am assuming when they do release it will not be prohibitive. However, I think we are some time away from the fully functional product Google aspires towards and therein, in my opinion, lies the reason for the fanfare but not the market release. Like most of the gadgets in our lives Glass will rely on the ecosystem around it to be truly useful (see the article on Google’s SDK for wearable devices). It most likely needs another iteration or two of design, but when these pieces are present I think Google are on to a surefire winner.