Since early 2012, the tech and geek world have been fascinated by a new project / experiment from Google dubbed Google Glass. At the surface Google Glass are a set of very minimally designed augmented reality glasses. Yet the fascination and excitement, so far displayed by geeks and nerds, speak to the larger potential impact this device could have on how we not only interact with computing devices and data but with each other. Don't think that paradigm has already happened once, all you have to do is look to your smartphone.
Yet armed with that potential, Google's unveil of the project has been a combination of uninspiring and puzzling, looking more like the rollout for a niche high-end camera (think Leica) than a product meant to change the way the mass market communicates.
What has Gone Right - Exciting the Fanboys
The bright spots, in their efforts leading to launch, so far have come from their evangelist outreach efforts. The progression, from rumors to leaked info in article has been spot on. Google fans / evangelist who had been exposed to mentions of the potential project in late 2011 got their first confirmation with an article courtesy of the New York Times in February 2012. Quickly after, Google launched a Google + page adorned with the first official pictures. The leak, followed quickly by official photos were a sure fire way to get their hard core fan excited about the project.
And like any technology company, it knows that the success of Glass will in part reside in the success of it as a platform for 3rd party development. To encourage developers to adopt the platform the exclusive Glass Foundry two-day hackathon was a nice touch.
Lastly having an event strategy didn't hurt either, especially when the head cheerleader is Sergey Brin himself showing up at various technology conferences sporting the Glass. If anything it's a testament to the fact that this is a bonafide project and not some R&D experiment.
Going Elite First - The Fashion Faux Pas
But following those well executed early efforts, there have been a series of interesting choices. The first was the heavy presence of the project at this year's New York fashion show, complete with models walking down the runway sporting the stylish prototype. Perhaps a pro-active attempt at countering the notion that these wouldn't look good on a six foot tall model. Where this falls short is in the fact that the New York Fashion Week is still not aspirational for many of us, it is foreign and elitist, unless that is, you sport Dior and Channel on a weekly basis.
Going Elite First - A Beta for the Well To Do
The next misstep was their explorer program, the Google Glass #ifihadgoogleglass selective beta program. While the idea is right on and needed to increase desirability by opening up the spigot, at issue is what the $1500 purchase fee for the Prototype Glass for the few entrants that get selected by the Google team. Wanting a price as an additional barrier to a beta program can be debated, but a price which is nearly three times as high as an iPhone 5 will put this out of the grasp of many and into the hands of a few privileged dubbed by Techcrunch as Glassholes.
A $1,500 Camera
The next curious decision by Google has been the content they've produced to show off the Google Glass project.
The initial video of members of the Glass team skydiving for the I/O 2012 tech conference is a great adrenaline piece. In the video, the video and image capture features of the Glass are really put on a pedestal, and yes they somehow stick to your face while you are hurling at 115 MPH towards mother earth. The skydiving video is a great first step or setup for a more in depth and perhaps inspirational video. Yet that opportunity feels squandered with the current video on the site which besides again underlining the camera features of the device add direction and live conferencing to the mix. Hardly the stuff of science fiction and not close to what Microsoft has done in the past (included below for comparison).
Conclusion: Cloaked under this critical piece about Google Glass is a big fan of the potential of the technology. However where Google continues to fall short (and where Steve Jobs and Apple excelled) is at inspiring us. Google Glass is a new category of device which should not be treated as or marketed as incremental improvement on smartphones or camera. We want a picture of what a future filled with Glass holds, not an itemized list of features ( however great the accompanying photography ). If early access to Glass is based on creativity, make that the only variable in the selection process instead of adding a pretty heavy $1500 sticker price to it.
Google Glass is a new device, so don't treat or market it like a camera or a new generation of phone. It's a completely new device class, market it like it is, do something new, perhaps even bold.