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Blog

Personal blog of Alicia Fowler, aka @aliciaef, senior strategist at FutureBrand. Topics covered include brands, branding, technology, and space, and more!

Google's glass house

The other week I received an email from Google Glass Explorer program to come check out a Glass demo at Google's Basecamp. Sure, why not. Adam hadn't yet played with Glass and my previous encounter was pretty short.

Honestly, we should have left it like that. I know Glass (or rather, any wearable augmented reality device) has the potential to profoundly impact the way we perform surgeries, fight fires or even more mundanely, find our way around cities. But the messaging, industrial design, and current population of users/advocates still scream, "this is not a product for normal people". At least not yet. 

We were told Glass was designed for micro-interactions. "It's a quicker way to respond to text messages, check in on Foursquare, and such, so you can get right back to what you're doing. Or really, never leave the moment." So that's essentially a $1500 slower, heavier, slightly disorienting accessory for my much cheaper and faster smartphone that I can easily view without feeling like I'm giving myself a lazy eye.

And sure, I'll entertain the notion of micro-interactions being easier to accomplish on my face rather than in my hands, but the thing I'm interacting with also needs to be interesting itself.   Unfortunately the Glass demos also only featured the bare minimum of apps: photos, search, directions, note taking, etc. Yes, I enjoyed taking stealth videos of the showroom (easier than you would think), but nothing in the demo compelled me to fork over my credit card right them and there. Which was really a shame for Google as the showroom had barely more than 15 people in it (including employees!) so the demo devices should have has enough downtime to withstand heavy testing with a full range of apps. And even when I was experimenting with more interesting apps like its local discovery one, I would read aloud what I thought were voice commands that turned out to be touch prompts. Of course, as the interactions become more natural and commands more responsive, I imagine I'd be pretty zippy with the thing, much like how I now use Siri or Google Now in place of opening Safari to search. But it's still got a bit to go I think, like any truly new product category. 

However, the product experience aside, the interior design of Basecamp really made Glass more compelling. You can tell Google wanted to counterbalance the all to often mentioned Minority Report future Glass represents. Once we stepped out of the elevator (in the hip Chelsea Market), we were ushered into a space not too unlike Warby Parker's showrooms, which was a bit odd considering that partnership fizzled. You know, that Williamsburg meets San Fran hipster chic style. Granted we attended at 10am, but the showroom felt empty. More people would help give the room the right buzz and hum it needed.  

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All in all, I loved playing with Glass. It's got a ton of potential, but the entire experience was a bit lackluster. Google still needs to dissuade us from the idea that Glass is for provocateurs,  engineers, or professionals. Basecamp was a valiant first step, but only that. I still walked away with the feeling that while yes, I could learn more about the world around me or cheat at trivia with Glass, the cost might be my already stunted ability to connect with others on a meaningful level or even just a level that acknowledges we're humans. (Read: asking a local for advice over asking a device.) The current discrepancy between the painfully on-brand message of you're-still-in-the-moment-only-it's-better-now and the product experience was still just too high. Especially at $1500. I still felt like a weird half-cyborg looking at other weird half-cyborgs who didn't realize we were rejected by both humans and machines alike. Or like Doctor Who and Rose among EarPod wearing humans: