Google Glass: The Next Era of Personal Computing

Recently I wrote up some initial impressions on using Google Glass, but Glass represents something so new that my impressions form and change every day. It has been very difficult for me to neatly arrange my thoughts for this post as I feel Glass represents so much and is, arguably, a culmination of Google’s finest work yet.

It has been widely discussed that Glass isn’t yet a final product and will evolve into something more sophisticated and powerful. The more I discuss this idea with the Somo innovation team and friends around the industry the more I realise how exciting and powerful Glass will be, so I wanted to take a stab at why I think Glass has such massive potential, and look at the impact it will have on our lives.

Google are changing the way we interact with computers

Glass represents some of Google’s finest work in one product; it follows a few recent significant strategic moves by the tech giant.

In 2012 Google changed the way it indexed information; the Knowledge Graph was created to understand the relationship and connection between objects, moving away from just searching for strings of characters. This helped Google to “understand the world in the way [we] do”. Cool.

2013, Google announces Conversational Search, utilising the Knowledge Graph to the fullest. Forget the fact that Google’s speech detection is as good, if not better than Siri, using the Knowledge Graph now allows Google to ‘hear’ questions you are asking it and respond in a human way. Ask Chrome ‘how old is Obama?’ and it knows you are very likely asking ‘how old is Barrack Obama?’. Then ask ‘how old is his wife?’ and it knows that you are really asking ‘how old is Michelle Obama?’. Subtle difference, massive implications.

Again, 2013 and Google launches Google Now, their predictive assistant that learns from your behaviour across the web and serves you content that you want, when you want it. On Android this is amazing. Stick with it…

Later in 2013 and Glass is soft-launched. Glass has a, largely, hands-free UI that enables the user to talk to it, and it talks back – a big step towards Natural User Interfaces (NUIs). Super.

Right. Now Glass does not perfectly implement all of the above at the moment but Google have now released a device and technology that learns from you, serves you relevant content at the right time in a couple of unobtrusive ways, it will talk to you, you can talk back, it will understand you. Game. Done. Changed.

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Wearable tech needs to be fashionable

Say what you want about Glass v1; some think it’s cool already, others do not. For wearable tech to be mainstream it needs to be cooler. It needs to be in the arm of some Tom Ford specs, not look like a Bluetooth headset on crack. No doubt Glass will be refined when released to consumers, but I believe that we will see ‘now with Glass technology!’ claims on Tom Ford, Burberry, Oakley etc. glasses. It will become integrated into fashionable goods. A brilliant article on why wearable tech needs fashion to thrive should be read for a detailed explanation.

Murat Mutlu put it eloquently when he said to me “you can just see some **** in the Gucci store helping you out with a pair of these on his face”. On its journey to cool, Glass will be used by high-end fashion brands, and retail in general. Whilst Glass v1 is likely to be used mainly to show off, with v2, 3, 4… the sales person could subtly know your size (no more pretending you’re a size 6!), get recommendations based on a customer’s shape, colouring, stock availability – all without turning their attention away from the customer for a second.

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Glass needs to not look out of place here

Content must be smart and personal

Like with your smartphone, you opt-in to receive app content with Glass but unlike your smartphone Glass decides what to show you and when. To get precious eye-space people will only opt-in to great content; poor content will result in ultra-fast uninstalls.

If I download a crap branded app on my iPhone, I will choose to open it only once. If bad, generic branded content pops up in my face every 20 minutes I will uninstall / smash my Glass. To me, this says that content has got to be King – more so than ever before. When you use Glass a lot, you realise the power good content has. The New York Times gives me short headlines spoken into my ear as I stroll down Piccadilly Circus and now I love the New York Times!

Who knows how Glass will start to prioritise content in the future, I would wager some behavioural learning like Google Now or Zite, but you can bet that brands with the best content will make it to the top of your feed.

So how will Glass impact business?

Acceleration of information changes purchase behaviour

Smartphones messed things up for everyone! Before smartphones we could rely on the age-old method of advertising – display some ‘thing’ and people will remember and buy it later. Smartphones enabled people to search something right now. This shortened the time it took for people to decide which product to buy, social reviews started to affect in store purchase intent, prices in store were suddenly not the only prices available to consumers. Glass has the potential to do all of this, but faster and easier than smartphonesGlass will enable you to look at an Iron Man 3 billboard, watch the trailer immediately, find a nearby cinema showing it in 20 minutes, and buy tickets through Google Wallet with an “OK Glass… buy”.

Smartphones changed the way consumers accessed the internet, moving from longer, less frequent sessions on desktops to many quick sessions throughout the day. Glass will change the way that consumers access the internet even further, with ’micro-sessions’ occurring more often and shorter even than smartphone sessions. This will have massive implications for purchase behaviour across all markets. 

My awesomely Photoshopped stab at how Glass is changing the way we use the internet

My awesomely Photoshopped stab at how Glass is changing the way we use the internet

Augmented reality will start to make real sense!

We all love Augmenter Reality, don’t we? Like it or not, Google have spent a lot of money and time putting their faith in augmenting the real world with Glass. At the moment it’s slightly limited with some decent directional instructions, but how long until we see super-useful utility apps like this old BMW AR concept, an app to help surgeons, or advanced education tools for schools and universities?  Whilst Glass is not ready for these sorts of applications yet, this is the first big step in moving towards a real augmented reality future full of useful digital aides.

It’s hard to express the full impact this will have at such an early stage, but expect numerous markets to be heavily disrupted and lots of new markets to emerge through the implementation of augmented reality. Read this fantastic Smashing Magazine article for an in-depth look at this area.

The next era in personal computing

Google are taking big steps towards changing the world; Glass is a fantastic step towards the next era of personal computing and Google must be applauded for a step that will probably not be the most lucrative in the short term for the shot at long term winning and shared learning. When combined with tech like WiFi broadcasting blimps , 1000 Mb/s high speed Fiber internet, or self-driving cars Google are setting themselves up as the company to heavily disrupt the digital world we know over the next 10 years. It’s all very exciting.

I’d love to know if you agree, disagree, or have a killer suggestion I stupidly overlooked – please comment at the bottom of the page or tweet me @joelblackmore.

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