Google Glass And Consumers: Nothing To See Here - InformationWeek

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10/2/2014
09:06 AM
Shane O'Neill
Shane O'Neill
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Google Glass And Consumers: Nothing To See Here

Google Glass may soon transform the workplace, but the mainstream disconnect runs deep.

Has any product evoked such fear and loathing as Google Glass?

Sure, Glass is being put through its paces by thousands of testers, and it's in full use at hospitals and manufacturing plants, which value its hands-free delivery of information.

But for most consumers and many business users, the forever-in-beta computer screen on your face is still just something they've heard about. It's an idea… and a bad one.

[Cyborg Unplug promises to boot Google Glass from local networks. Read Blinders For Google Glass.]

Some examples of the negativity:

  • The derogatory term "Glasshole" is now part of the cultural vocabulary: "I was in line behind some Glasshole, waiting for my latte, when the barista flipped out over being recorded." (Of course, you can also be recorded unknowingly by a smartphone, but it's harder to be stealthy.)
  • A site called Stop The Cyborgs was created to educate users about the privacy dangers of Google Glass.
  • Even Congress got involved, writing a letter to Google CEO Larry Page last year demanding that Google address a range of privacy concerns about Glass.
  • Google Glass has been banned in bars and restaurants in major cities, including San Francisco and Seattle.
  • Last February, a story about a woman who was verbally and physically assaulted for wearing Google Glass at Molotov's, a San Francisco dive bar, struck a nerve and spurred conversation about the privacy and class conflicts surrounding Glass.

But don't equate "dislike" with "disinterest." The term "Google Glass" enjoys 12 times as many searches as the term "wearables," according to a new Forrester report on how privacy violations will shape Google Glass adoption. When surveying 4,556 online US adults, Forrester found that 50% of respondents agree that "Google Glass raises privacy concerns for me." However, 45% of those same people say they would buy Glass if the price were right.

Hey, if you can't beat 'em, am I right?

(Image: inquisitr.com)
(Image: inquisitr.com)

Sadly for Glasshole wannabes, at $1,500, the price isn't exactly right for most mortals. Still, privacy fears won't deter some consumers from giving Glass a try if they can get a pair at a reasonable price. And privacy fears have a history of diminishing (or we just surrender to Overlord Google, I can't tell which).

Yet Google Glass is up against more than just privacy paranoia and a steep price. There's also a snobbery stigma. In the Bay Area, Google Glass has come to represent uber-wealthy techies who are loathed by nontechies aggrieved by the relentless march toward technological progress, not to mention sky-high rents. Is there any doubt this animosity will spread to more cities?

One hopes that, as Google Glass becomes better understood (it's not recording you all the time), people will calm down, and altercations like the one at Molotov's will cease and desist. But for now, Google Glass is a symbol of socio-economic class tension. Add to that the exorbitant price tag and the ease with which a thief could snag Glass from your face, and there's not much going for it as a consumer product -- breathtaking augmented reality features aside.

So where will Google Glass grow up? It's already doing so in enterprises, mostly for field service technicians and logistics pros in manufacturing plants, where Glass can speed up productivity and address specific worker needs. Doctors are also using Glass to access patient records without taking their eyes off the procedure at hand. Gartner forecasts that the use of Google Glass and other smart glasses will help add more than $1 billion per year to company profits by 2017. So there's that… and the fact that nobody at work is going to smack you upside the head for wearing Google Glass.

But don't expect such courtesy out on the mean streets. At this point, Google Glass has too much working against it to appeal to thrifty consumers overserved by smartphones and tablets and now glancing at the smartwatch menu. Most of us are too poor, distracted, and humble for Google Glass.

As a tech enthusiast, I'm excited about Glass and other smart glasses as ambitious niche products for savvy developers, warehouse workers, technicians, doctors, and nurses. Business productivity has found a friend.

The same can't be said for consumers.

The Internet of Things demands reliable connectivity, but standards remain up in the air. Here's how to kick your IoT strategy into high gear. Get the new IoT Goes Mobile issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest today (free registration required).

Shane O'Neill is Managing Editor for InformationWeek. Prior to joining InformationWeek, he served in various roles at CIO.com, most notably as assistant managing editor and senior writer covering Microsoft. He has also been an editor and writer at eWeek and TechTarget. ... View Full Bio
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zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
10/15/2014 | 7:06:47 AM
Re: Google Glass And Consumers
There is a very strong point in here, Shane, and I think it's that, as tech folks, we ought to accept that some people just aren't into what we have to offer. This certainly applies to trends outside google glass - IoT device number predictions for 2020, for example, are in the dozens of billions. I feel like this number fails to account for the number of people who don't want a connected thermostat... and, as you rightly point out, the number of people who won't be able to afford it. Everyone keeps saying 'next year' when it comes to wearables, but it might be time for a more sober outlook.

On the other hand, part of me is inclined to dismiss some of the troubles you've listed here as isolated incidents or growing pains. You're right that as they start to pile up, we have to look at them as more than that, but I think the incident where the bartender flipped the patron off is a lot more easily chalked up to her having a lousy day than anything else. The comparison to soylent in the linked article seems strange and forced - the person with those thoughts comes off like an outlier grasping at straws, not a real representation of the working man. I think middle ground will come a little easier than all that.
Zorrojaz2200
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Zorrojaz2200,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/4/2014 | 4:06:38 PM
Googleglass and Consumer Use
So I am been wearing Googleglass for 15 months all over the North east - NYC, Boston everywhre in between. And for 12 days in Venice, Florance and Rome.

In Restaurants, bars, clubs, NYC Broadway Plays, Skiing, at all kinds of events, multiple beaches, in the Gym where I work out 3 to 5 times a week and wear it everyday all day except at work ( I am an IT manager and there are no Googlglaaa Apps for my work yet).

Everywhere I go - people love it - when they try it on, they love it even more. Who woiuld not want a hands free - instant information - super intelligent computer to augment reality and give you instant communication and instant picture and videos of your life and family and friends.

Googlgeglass takes your consciousness to next level everywhere - and you can take non wearers with you.

Everyone I speak to - ask about it are going to buy it.

When the big consumer Apps come out (and my Company Handyoptics Inc is working on 3 major market area apps) everyone will be weaing Googleglass all the time.

We are also working on multiple Apps for the workplace in every business type.

Bottom line - media hysgteria sells blogs - papers whatever - but it is BS. When the consumer launch happens next year - There will be lines in every city around the entire world.

Googleglass is Next Level civilization technology!!! In five years, if you are not wearing one - it will be equivelant to living in the 14th century.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
10/3/2014 | 7:19:04 PM
Re: Let me beat my drum some more....
I can't imagine that it will take very long for this controversial, but highly useful device to come down a long way in price. The virtuous cycle of greater demand -> more manufacturing engineering investment -> lower price -> greater demand will ensue. Once it does, everyone will be wearing them, because that will allow them to better immerse themselves into the virtual world of their tablets and smartphones while they are sitting at work, commuting on public transit, and, unfortunately, while they are driving. But, I don't know that this will decrease the paranoia. Maybe as the device becomes more ubiquitous, it might even increase it.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/3/2014 | 5:12:33 PM
Re: Let me beat my drum some more....
Gary, I think even if someone isn't up to no good, Glass is still a red flag. Right now the assumption is that it's recording everything and that makes people uncomfortable in an already paranoid society. At least if someone is being sneaky with a smartphone they'll get noticed soon enough. It's the not knowing with Google Glass that makes people nuts. Are these fears irrational? Sure, and will likely peter out if smart glasses ever transition from business environments to broad consumer adoption. But I don't see how that happens at $1500. It'll have to cut in half even to be considered. All this makes me wish I could fast-forward 5 years.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 4:11:03 PM
Re: Let me beat my drum some more....
Well, at $1500 a copy, it's going to take a lot of price reduction before Google Glass will be accepted as a consumer product - at least by THIS consumer! But, I don't buy the privacy issue, because there are many ways to configure a hidden digital camera to make surrepetitious recordings. Indeed, if someone was up to no good, wearing Glass would be an immediate red flag.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 3:43:02 PM
Re: Let me beat my drum some more....
I agree with everyone that the misperceptions of Google glass and the public issues it brought to light really damages its appeal among consumers.  I think it will take a long time before people really start accepting Google Glass as an acceptable consumer technology.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 12:03:43 PM
Re: Let me beat my drum some more....
Well put @GAProgrammer. Glass definitely suffers from "Hey isn't this great for everyone" syndrome. Classic Silicon Valley bubble thinking. But the haves vs. have nots problem with consumers is serious, and will not go quietly. Put Glass in a work environment where it's used to perform surgery more efficiently or fix a wind turbine in half the time and all the nonsense goes away.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/2/2014 | 11:40:36 AM
Re: Let me beat my drum some more....
Definitely -- Google's marketing was incredibly tone-deaf, especially given the cost. But that's what happens when you live in the Silicon Valley bubble. 
GAProgrammer
IW Pick
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 11:13:07 AM
Let me beat my drum some more....
Glass is yet another "just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should" - as far as comsumers are concerned. There is a lot of "tech for tech's sake" coming out, with all the innovations coming out every day. The problem with many of these innovations is that they myopically say "hey isn't this great" without really evaluating the societal or governmental imact or issues involved. They have invited this "elitist" snub because many people defend this tech by saying "well, you are just a Luddite who hates technology and progress".

I think if Google had pushed this as an industry or enterprise product, the reception would have been very different. As the author pointed out, when used in a hospital or industrial setting, many of the emotional reactions are not invoked.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
10/2/2014 | 10:50:18 AM
Depends on where you use it...
For Google Glass, the idea is good from technical point of view but from data confidentiality perspective, it creates new threat. Fortunately it's easy to recognize and we can have regulation to prevent people from using it if needed. But another side of the coin is that, you can transmit information in real-time in a hands-free way, which is cool.
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