Google Glass is here. A month after it went on general sale in the U.S., Britons now too can don a pair of clever specs and speak to an imaginary assistant to send a message, map their ride, record a
clip of "catching air" before changing track to their favourite jogging anthem.
Is it me, though? Do we need another gadget in our lives? There are those who say we're moving away from the
smartphone being the centre of everyone's universe and that it will instead become a hub for peripherals to communicate with. I disagree. Although there will probably be an exception for sports
activities where a jogger or football player would rather have a ring or a band to monitor their progress than a smartphone -- which, as Apple reports today suggest, are only set to get bigger.
Sure, there are peripherals for monitoring cycle rides and offering GPS on the move, but then there are also overpriced dashboard-integrated GPS screens in premium cars and there's only way
that battle's going to go. Gravity is sucking peripherals in to the smartphone, which suddenly starts to look a lot more affordable when it replaces Fuel bands, Tom Tom navigators and a (video)
Nobody knows how many Google Glass units have been sold. The more sober estimates put the figures in tens of thousands of eager uber geeks who are keen to look like a character from
Star Trek, while Business Intelligence claims a million will ship this year and that number will more than double next year.
Quite what the customer need is, though, is baffling. Doing many
of the things you can do on a smartphone via voice and with your specs as the screen may seem great but, is it? How do you get over the "wally factor" of wearing big specs and talking to yourself on
the move? And when you're out and about on the move, isn't it the reassurance of a screen you can occupy yourself with that people seek, rather than the alternative of looking up and making eye
contact with people in a packed carriage?
And what about the privacy concerns of people walking around videoing all and sundry? It has apparently already caused issues in San
So as a niche product Google Glass will do very well. What a way to read a book by the poolside on holiday and a great way for cycle couriers to find their way around town.
In situations where you're likely to wear sunglasses or protective eyewear, it's could easily gain traction if the price drops way below today's GBP1,000.
For brands, if you want my honest
opinion, the big compelling reason behind adoption will be customer service. Nobody likes a receptionist or customer advisor who is permanently tapping on a screen or popping off to check if something
is in stock. Put on a pair of Google Glass and you not only look futuristic, you can check out details while talking to a customer. Virgin Atlantic has been trialling this for Upper Class passengers
and claims it has gone down well. I can see it proving just as popular for hotel check in staff and shop floor assistants.
When there is a compelling advantage in looking up -- such as
keeping a fruitful customer service or sales conversation going -- Google Glass could well be a winner. And where you would naturally be wearing shades -- jogging on the beach or catching air on a
snowboard -- it could again get minor traction around real fan boys and girls.
As a mainstream product you'll see people walking around the street with being guided to their next meeting,
sending messages and holding video conversations, however, I really don't see it.
With no immediate space to market or advertise on, I would suggest this is not so much one for marketers
but the customer service division.