Is Google Glass the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread? [MUO Debates]
What do you get when you cross a heads-up display and a pair of goggles? Google Glasses of course!
There are a lot of people out there who are getting very excited about Google Glasses. We’ve got plenty of those people right here at MakeUseOf, like Danny who recently wrote up our Google Glasses giveaway in December, Dave Parrack who wrote about them in a Tech News Digest update , as well as Dave’s list of the 10 best Google Glass videos online.
You don’t have to look very far for buzz about this up and coming next-generation mobile product. The question is – is this all hype? Or are Google Glasses the next big thing next to sliced bread and those little tabs at the end of your shoelaces? Well, we’ve decided to pair off two of our best writers in a debate covering whether Google Glasses is really the next big Earth-shattering technology that will break down barriers and inspire innovation. On the one side, we’ve got Matt Hughes who is ready to start wearing a pair of Google Glasses today, and on the other side we’ve got Justin Pot, who feels that maybe there’s a little bit too much hype going on with this new product.
Join us as Justin and Matt face off in a debate about whether or not Google Glass is the next big thing that’s going to transform the world of technology and mobile applications.
Matt Hughes — I’ll Be the First in Line for Google Glass
Thirty seconds isn’t a huge amount of time. In thirty seconds, you can listen to Napalm Death’s opus ‘You Suffer’ 22.8 times. Roger Bannister ran 1/8th of a mile in thirty seconds. Mal Meninga’s political career lasted less than thirty seconds. And in thirty seconds, I became convinced that the future of computing was Google Glass.
Strong words? Perhaps. Since Google Glass was announced last year, it has attracted a great deal of skepticism and derision, with the epithet ‘glasshole’ being coined to describe users of Mountain View’s latest experiment in augmented reality. It has also attracted a great deal of adoration, with Time Magazine describing it as one of the best inventions of 2012.
I was fortunate enough to try Google Glass recently. In just thirty seconds, I got a whistle-stop tour of what this elusive (and pricy) piece of gear. Thirty seconds was all it took for me to be rendered awestruck by what it can do, and what it represents for the future of consumer technology.
Using Google Glass is very much a sensory experience; you pop it on the bridge of your nose and away you go, issuing commands to it like you’re Captain Jean-Luc Picard on the Enterprise. A small screen (smaller than a postage stamp) sits comfortably within your field of vision, showing directions, translations and the like. It’s important to stress that this doesn’t feel intrusive. Whilst it’s noticeably there, it doesn’t stop you from perceiving the world around you.
Google is quite good at speech recognition and human language processing, and Google Glass is a testament to that. Want to know where the nearest McDonalds is? Just ask. Curious about how old Barack Obama is? It’ll tell you. Met a cute girl but she doesn’t speak your language? Glass has you covered there.
I’m usually quite reticent to jump on any bandwagons. Throughout the history of consumer technology there have been far too many products which were excessively hyped, and ended up being a huge disappointment. Anyone remember the Blackberry Storm? And yet, for Google Glass I’m leaving my conservatism at the door. I’m ready to get excited for it, for Google is bringing information consumption direct to the eyeball. After iPads and smartphones, it feels like a logical step forwards. I can’t wait for it to get a general release, and when it does I’m pretty sure I’ll be the first in line for it.
Justin Pot — Google Glass Doesn’t Really Solve Anything
January 9, 2007 is the day Steve Jobs presented a device that would redefine the mobile market: the iPhone. Some argue that Google Glass’ release to the public will be like that.
I’m not sure.
The iPhone wasn’t an entirely new invention: it was a refinement, something that used clever design to make existing technology more useful. You could argue the iPhone owes a lot to a device released earlier, on March 10, 1997.
If you don’t recognize that date, you can be excused, because the device it launched is today a footnote: the Palm Pilot. This was a precursor to the modern smartphone, offering everything from a to-do list to a calendar to simple games.
But the Palm never caught on in a big way. Simply put, it didn’t solve any problems – even if owners tried to invent some. They tweaked the device, dreaming up problems it was the answer to. This was fun, but most users will admit they didn’t actually *use* their Palm very often.
Ultimately, the Palm was missing the thing that makes portable devices most useful: widespread wireless Internet access. The iPhone had a broad appeal not because everything it did was brand new, but because it made previously geek-centric tech into something widely useful – thanks in part to then-expanding 3G networks.
Maybe Glass will be an iPhone moment, a consumer tech that will quickly change everyone upon release. Maybe people will get over the reported dizziness and headaches. Maybe video chats wherein you see the other person’s point of view instead of their face won’t be awkward. And maybe people are going to be fine with wearing a pair of glasses even Star Trek’s Borg would find bulky.
Maybe this technology is ready to change everything, right now. Or maybe, just maybe, another device later will do that.
Early Glass adopters aren’t on the cutting edge of the next big thing, like iPhone users were in 2007 – they’ll be more like early Palm Pilot users, playing around with a cool piece of tech that doesn’t yet solve any problems (even if they pretend it does).
Matt Hughes — Bollocks. Nothing Like Google Glass Has Been Done
A common refrain about Google Glass is that it’s not earth-shattering. Nothing new. A refinement.
Nothing like Google Glass has ever been done. The technology industry has never even came close to what Google is doing here. In terms of form factor and the user experience, nothing has ever came close.
Let me put it this way. This is the first time a product has been on the market where you’ve been able to beam travel directions straight into your eyeball. And in a fairly unobtrusive package too. Nothing has ever come close to that.
Another common refrain about Google Glass is that it doesn’t solve a problem. Well, the iPhone didn’t solve anything when it came out. Neither did the Apple II. Neither did the iPad. They were platforms which developers and consumers used in order to solve their challenges. In that respect, the onus is on Google to make it a product which can be adapted to solve the needs of their customers.
With the huge amounts of developer engagement and consumer field-testing that has already taken place (more than there was before the official release of the iPhone), it’s safe to say that they are taking that responsibility seriously.
I like the comparison to the iPhone though. We all remember 2007. We all remember when it came out, and people immediately rushed to their nearest fruit shop to get their hands on the most desirable gear of the moment. Some even vented their frustration at not getting their hands on the iPhone with microphone themed larceny.
Google Glass absolutely has that mass appeal, with devices being flogged for well over the RRP on Ebay and a waiting list longer than a Peter Jackson flick.
We all now know how the iPhone turned out. And let’s be honest, you can usually predict the success for a technological product by the buzz that precedes its release. Google Glass is a desirable, hotly anticipated product, with those who have used it almost uniformly lauding its praises. Remind you of anything?
Justin Pot — There’s Nothing New About Google Glass
I think you missed my point. I’m not saying that there’s nothing new about Glass, that it’s just a refinement. I’m saying that brand new products rarely take off quickly. Refinements do.
Glass isn’t the iPhone in my comparison: it’s the Palm Pilot. The iPhone brought portable computing to the mainstream in a huge way, but did so by refining ideas and technologies that existed before it. Like the Palm, glass won’t be an immediate mainstream success. It’s an early example of a technology that will catch on with the mainstream a few years later.
Buying early is for suckers, and most consumers know it. Hardware geeks ignore this fact, because they love trying new things – they’re the ones who so desperately want to try Glass. But enthusiasts are not the mainstream.
When it comes to Glass, most people will wait. They’re going to let geeks like you pay more, work out the bugs and figure out what it’s actually useful for. They’re going to wait for lower prices. They’re going to wait until some technology that doesn’t exist yet – probably a way to make powerful computers much smaller than is currently possible – which makes the device more obviously useful.
You say that Glass will solve problems, we just don’t know which yet. I agree. But most people aren’t going to bother purchasing the product until it’s perfectly clear which problems the device does and does not solve. It took a decade after Palm’s release in 1997 before devices like them caught on in a huge way, thanks to the iPhone. I’m not saying computer-assisted glasses will take that long to catch on, but it won’t be immediate.
Weigh In On The Google Glass Debate
So what do you think? Is Google Glass going to completely change the landscape of mobile computing in the next year or two like Matt believes, or is it going to serve more as a catalyst for longer term, slower change over time as Justin believes? Share you own position in the comments section below, and weigh in on this debate.