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. Continue reading

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Three predictions on the future of mobile tech

Inspired by the 40th anniversary of the first ever mobile phone call I wrote a piece for the Somo blog on where I see the mobile going in the near future.

40 years ago today the first mobile phone call was made by Martin Cooper at Motorola, who called a rival at another telecoms company to gloat that he was first to call from a cellular phone. Well done Motorola, you kicked off something huge!

Martin Cooper

Fast-forward 40 years and mobile phones have come a long way – today, a mobile ‘phone’ means more to us than a way to make phone calls. Modern smartphones are super-computers in our pockets with a phone antenna attached. Smartphones allow us to communicate in new ways – we text, we email, we post to social media, we communicate via pictures and video, we read, we consume. We look to our smartphones to entertain us; we play games, listen to music in new ways, and even augment traditional pass times such as TV or magazines. Our smartphones are widely considered our most personal device and we trust them to hold our most personal details – our memories, our bank details, even the keys to our homes.

 

Just as Martin Cooper and co. would no doubt have trouble predicting where their mobile phone would end up in 40 years, we too have the same trouble (I’m going with something to do with lasers), however, we can make some good guesses on where mobile will be in a few years.

 

 The ‘phone’ bit is most likely to go!

We know that smartphones are more like computers than phones. According to O2 only 9% of time is now spent using the voice functionality of the modern smartphone, with 11% time spent playing games, and 19% browsing the internet. Usage is shifting, and after getting 3G on my iPad mini, I can personally see how an ‘always connected’ device without phone functionality is still extremely useful. Plus, calls can be made using VOIP when needed.

 

 ’Mobile’ devices are more than phones

Whilst tablets have been around for a long time, the iPad’s launch in 2010 suddenly forced us to question the role of these new devices. Were they mobile? Now we consider tablets as a mobile device and have to plan experiences accordingly to work across different screen sizes and user contexts. With Google Glass coming, the rumoured iWatch / Android watch, even persistently connected cars, how do we treat these? They are certainly mobile but they offer new screens, new contexts, new ways to think about the term ‘mobile’.

 

All companies will think mobile

Whilst many companies have ventured into mobile, many have still not. Accessing content, sites, or experiences will happen away from the traditional desktop computer. Brands, content providers, and companies of all shapes and sizes will offer solutions to cater for this. Whilst there will be those that are better than others, I cannot imagine a world where companies are not offering content tailored to the mobile user.

 

We don’t know where exactly the mobile phone will be in the future, but be sure that we will keep you informed every step of the way.

 

Congratulations Mr. Cooper, we salute you! Without your first phone call Somo would not be here.

What does the mobile future look like? A look back at a 2010 UK government prediction

Tim Dunn has just posted an interesting look back at the mobile future piece he wrote for the UK government in 2010. At 30,000 words the original piece is a bit of a slog to get through but is actually a great way to get to know lots about mobile in a short time, even if some isn’t super current. 

What I like about Tim’s post is the summary of what is not covered in the 2010 piece that would likely make it into a ‘mobile futures’ piece if written today. When discussing potential topics for inclusion, Tim writes:

I welcome your ideas below the line, but as a starter for 10, perhaps we would be looking at:

 

  • Natural interfaces – the growth of new intuitive ways to control the device, such as eye-scrolling and gesture recognition
  • Socio-economic dimorphism of mobile adoption and behavior based on geography and class. Will we see 4G simply extend and deepen the rural ‘not-spots’ we already see in broadband coverage? And will open OS smartphones truly enable digital participation regardless of earnings?
  • ID – I really don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of this. Smartphones should be able to carry secure and inviolable credentials such as passports and driving licences, but I don’t see much work in the field. Also, we should surely be able to scan or verify ID without the need for peripherals such as Square? Surely mobile will be able to deliver the vision of people like Dick Hardt as shown in this bravura performance from 2006
  • Enterprise – at Roundarch Isobar we do huge amounts of work in the Enterprise space that would be mind-boggling to my European colleagues. But I still think there’s a long way to go in B2B and B2E, specifically with BYOD in mind. Microsoft guys such as Matt Ballantine are providing leading thinking in this space
  • Location – this might seem like an old chestnut now, but the fact that mobile is, well, mobile, has not been mined to anything like its full potential. The capabilities have been very much held back by lack of physical infrastructure and lack of standardization, but payment and vouchering should now be on the up as business gears up to match consumer behavior in the converged world.
  • Connected Devices – with the smartphone packing the same processing power that a mainframe could deliver not so long ago, your phone is likely to be the center of your own local cloud services before long with anything from your watch to your soccer team to (whisper it) your fridge hanging off it for processing power and network functions

Whilst all points are key, and would pull out enterprise and location as key. Not necessarily for the obvious reasons. Whilst I believe topics such as the internet of things / connected devices is far more exciting, and will have massive impact on how we use physical and digital products together, I can see first hand the changes that mobile devices are having in the enterprise world right now. Businesses are embracing BYOD and modern smartphones – the iPhone is the most used enterprise device in the US – this has already opened up the possibilities of what can be delivered on business devices, where does this go in a couple of years?

Location is interesting because of how this impacts on content and UX. Whilst people argue about whether a mobile web site should include full site content or not, what is interesting to start to think about is how whatever content included reacts to the environment in which it is used. How does a mobile site accessed on a 3G connection, near a car showroom, directed to by specific Google search terms react when combined with the same user’s previous desktop behaviour on the same site? How does a supermarket mobile site react when it picks up chemical signals from a banana using sensors such as the Node?

Head on over to Tim’s blog to read the full article and get a load of useful links.