2 min read

Google Glass: Only nerds need apply

Let’s start by correcting a common misconception: 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 working 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.

Nothing new here

Packing a computer 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 phones before Apple decided bigger screens were better than squinting at matchbox sized images and built the first iPhone.

Head-mounted displays aren’t new either. Clumsy, heavy ones connected by wires were around in the mid-1990s when the technology world first hyperventilated 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. No doubt 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.

Badge of shame

Wearing Google 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.