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Bill Bennett


Google Glass: Only nerds need apply

Put these on to the let the world know what a nerd you are
Put these on to the let the world know what a nerd you are

Let’s start by getting one misconception out-of-the-way. Google Glass is not a new idea.

Wearable computers have been around for as long as I’ve written about technology. I started on Practical Computing in 1981. During my first months on that magazine I interviewed someone – sorry I forget their name – who told me we would all soon be wearing computers as we went about our daily lives.

It didn’t happen.

Packing a computing into a tiny package has always been on the cards since voice recognition got to the point where a keyboard is no longer essential for input. After all that’s what happened with smartphones before their makers decided bigger screens were better than squinting at matchbox sized images.

Head-mounted displays aren’t new either. I remember clumsy heavy ones in the mid-1990s when the technology world was hyperventilating over virtual reality. Hundreds of companies have patents on that idea.

Google has done a good job of hyping Glass. There have been plenty of headlines. I’m sure many people reading this will want to buy the product when it goes on sale here.

Without seeing one, I can’t tell you if Google Glass is any good.  Mixed reports are coming from testers in the US. And let’s face it, the enthusiasts hand-picked by Google to try the technology are hardly unbiased.

What I can tell you is that wearing Glass in public will immediately identify the user as a hopeless nerd. It is the 2013 equivalent of clipping a cellphone pouch to your belt. In an earlier era the same type of person carried coloured pens in a pocket protector.

Sure, many nerds will happily wear that badge with pride. For everyone else it will be a stigma. You might as well tattoo 666 on your forehead.

It gets worse. Because Glass records video, it will annoy other people. That’s putting it mildly. You might be lucky to wear them in public and not get punched. Although anyone punching from the front might be readily identified when the video is played back.

So will Glass succeed? I can’t see it taking off in today’s format. Early reports say the product is buggy, there are no obvious killer applications and the first models were for US$1500 – that’s a lot for a toy, no matter how futuristic.

Perhaps half the world will be walking around wearing Glass and looking like complete prats a few years from now. Come back and tell me I was wrong.



4 thoughts on “Google Glass: Only nerds need apply

  1. “Sure, many nerds will happily wear that badge with pride. For everyone else it will be a stigma. You might as well tattoo 666 on your forehead.”

    I thought the exact same thing when I first saw Google Glass.

  2. I don’t get why people think that? I know a lot (in fact I don’t know any nerds who did) of people who used cellphone holsters like farmers and businessmen when a Nokia didn’t exactly exude comfort in your front pocket.

    Cellphones can record video a lot more secretively than Glass can and this has been specificaly designed like that by Google. You can see what is on the screen from the other side and any action requires obvious interaction with the device. That’s just FUD, Bill.

    The thing is, I haven’t seen any real user-facing promotion from Google, right now it is in testing and is only for the nerds to test out and create software/applications for. I am sure there is a helluva lot of people that would pay $2,000+ for a new Xbox now, a year before official release even though it doesn’t have any games and the software is buggy, but that is the state things are in a year out from release.

  3. It will be interesting to see whether it gets the most traction in the consumer space or in industry/enterprise. Battery life will be a big factor in the consumer space however in the commercial space this may be less of an issue. There are industrial applications where companies would like to know what someone was looking at. For example truck drivers,pilots on take off and landing, surgeons for legal reasons. From a user monitoring side there could emerge many uses.
    From the consumer side all it will take is Tom Cruise to where some in a movie or Elton John to where some really big ones in a concert for it to get a certain cache. The problem may be that fake ones with no working parts will then dominate sales.

    1. “The problem may be that fake ones with no working parts will then dominate sales.”

      Like fake burglar alarms? Yes, I can see that.

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