Smart Glass Adoption Will Grow In Business, Public Sectors

Although the technology is nifty enough, “smart glasses,” which to most people simply means Google Glass, had a decidedly mixed reception when they debuted in 2013. They set off a storm of criticism over potential privacy concerns and the general social obtuseness of wearing a computer on your face.

The epithet “Glasshole,” coined to describe anyone wearing Google Glass, says it all. Subsequently, many Glass-haters took Google’s recent announcement that it was halting production of Google Glass and rolling up the Explorer program as a victory of commonsense over techno-douchery.

But smart glasses aren’t going away. They’re just not going to be an everyday item for most consumers, at least in the near future. Rather, we will see large-scale adoption by the enterprise and public sectors, according to ABI Research, which expects shipments of smart glasses to soar 150% this year, with 90% of these going to business and public users.

ABI pointed to applications in categories including remote assistance, police and military, security, warehouse and barcode scanning. On the consumer side, their main application will be in gaming, already a clear target for Microsoft’s new Hololens headset.

ABI senior practice direct Nick Spencer cited some of the obvious hurdles to widespread adoption by consumers: “The use case for general-purpose smart glasses in the consumer space is weak… at a practical level, most people are not prepared to wear glasses because many simply do not normally need to, and if they do, they need specific lenses… It just seems a retrograde form-factor and a very obtrusive one for the user and general public.”

ABI sees much faster growth, and wider adoption, for less obtrusive smart watches. The same report predicts a 300% increase in smart-watch shipments in 2015 over 2014. It also pointed to new technologies, like smart earbuds, which would enable a wide range of computing functionality with a much lower profile than glasses.

Returning to public sector adoption of smart glasses, back in December, the U.S. Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program reported that they had treated their first patient with “Internet addiction disorder,” enabled by Google Glass, which the patient began using because it made him more efficient at inventory management.

The 31-year-old man originally checked into the program for treatment of alcoholism, but began displaying signs of addiction when his Google Glass was taken away, including physical tics like tapping his temple where Google Glass used to be, irritability, craving the device and dreaming about using the device. He told doctors that he had been using Google Glass to access the Internet for 18 hours per day.

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