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[15 comments]

Are Google's Glasses a Vision of Future Computing?

April 6, 2012

Operating firmly within the camp of those people challenged by walking and chewing gum at the same time, I don't think I'll be in the market any time in the future for Google's glasses that work just like a smartphone, but are worn on your head.

The whole wearable technology thing has been a bit lost on me, but Google, according to a YouTube page, believes "technology should work for you — to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don't."

That led a team within the company to start Project Glass and develop a prototype pair of wraparound glasses (described as futuristic or retro, depending on the report) for testing. The glasses can stream information to the lenses and work through voice commands. The display is in front of one eye.

One person who used the glasses, told The New York Times, "They let technology get out of your way. If I want to take a picture I don't have to reach into my pocket and take out my phone; I just press a button at the top of the glasses and that's it."

A piece by The Telegraph pointed out that most attempts at wearable technology up to this point have promised to make computing and/or life easier, but have yet to deliver on those promises.

[Image: Google Glasses]

FINANCIALS:     [NASDAQ:GOOG]

Discussion Questions:

Discussion Questions: How much potential do you see in Google's Project Glass prototype glasses? Are these and/or other forms of wearable technology where mobile technology is going? If yes, how might they be leveraged by retailers and brands?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How certain are you that wearable technology will play a major role in computing in the future?

Comments:

OMG. I am trying to disconnect from automation rather than have it part of my life every single second. Watching the video made me recoil; you would have to pay me a great deal of money to wear those things. Nope, you can't put a price on it. I just wouldn't do it. I belong to the group (not sure how big it is) that wants to just simplify. For some folk, using these glasses would "simplify," but for me they'd be an absolute nightmare.

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Warren Thayer, Editor & Managing Partner, Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer

The Clint Eastwood Movie "Foxfire" from years ago, and more recently "Iron Man" show the inevitable and fantastic future of this technology. Someday it will just be a chip in our head like Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Eraser." We'll be able to watch our dreams and possibly reprogram people's memories and minds. Nuclear Bombs will be a thing of the past.

John Joseph, Vice President, Josephs Jewelers

When I first saw this, I actually thought it was an April 1st joke. The clear and present danger that mobile devices added to our streets due to driver distraction has now been brought to pedestrian traffic! What will this mean to retailers and their liability insurance? Those infamous words- "Clean up in aisle seven" will now become panicked cries of "pedestrian crash -- shopper down at the intersection of aisle nine and Van Heusen." I admire the technology that makes this possible but it seems a long stretch for this to become a viable use for brands and retailers other than a gaming experience. I believe gesturing and an extended sign language will become a viable digital interface. The Google goggles will find a use as either a gaming interface or for the disabled in the near future.

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

I think the thought that Facebook and Apple ought to be worried is correct. This will happen. Let's look at it this way; at least people will be looking straight ahead instead of always looking down at their phone. People will actually be looking where they are going -- with one eye only, but hey, posting a comment on Twitter or Facebook is more important that watching out for that oncoming taxi, isn't it?

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Zel Bianco, President, founder and CEO, Interactive Edge

Wearable technology is everywhere. I talked yesterday with a company that makes ruggedized, wearable tablets. If you've been to trade shows, you've seen tee shirts with mesh TV screens attached. Welcome to the future....

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

The continuing development of voice recognition software in parallel with the development in language translation software make for an interesting IT future. If these two software applications are seamlessly joined together to act as one, the development and creation of application and communication drivers will follow and open opportunities for intelligent wireless transceivers to see many new and innovative designs for practical use. I am certain the development group in GOOGLE as well as many other IT companies see the same or similar opportunities and are acting on them to stay in the race.

With this in mind retail companies must stay the course of developing and expanding the capabilities of their own web sites. The companies that wish to expand in the future will use any means available to communicate in multiple languages setting carefully chosen opportunistic priorities for the order of language development.

'gjarnoldjr'

There's no easy answer to these questions. The technology is absolutely headed this way, but when and in what manner is open to development, iteration, consumer/market acceptance, and competing technologies.

Wearable headsets are coming to the fore in certain industries like maintenance or inventory management where having both information and two hands free is useful. It's possible that retail clerks could gain some hands-free advantage being able to look up information or perform check-outs with such a device, while doing other tasks, or even to discreetly pull-up customer information and greet customers.

Customers of course can look at products and effortlessly get product information and/or receive competing offers with no effort -- something that could bring more pressure from on-line only sellers such as Amazon. That said, the adoption rate in general will be much slower than that of smart phones and the adoption by retailers or brands is likely to be sporadic, only chosen by brands that want to project a hip or industry leading image.

Finally, the video is still a concept and there's a lot of pieces that have to fall into place before such a device will operate as seamlessly as depicted.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

I WANT ONE! At my desk. On the street.

If I may relate a discussion I had with my almost 8 year old grandson, Tex.

Tex: Papa, what was your first cell phone?
Me: It was a Motorola Flip Phone.
Tex: how many phones have you had?
Me: maybe 4 or 5. Do you know when I got my first cell phone?
Tex: No, when?
Me: In 1992.
Tex: That was a long time ago.
Me: Do you know what I did with it?
Tex: What?
Me: I talked on it.
Tex: You talked on it? That's all?
Me: Yep. I just talked on it.
Tex: You didn't text?
Me: No, just talked.
Tex: You didn't email?
Me: No, I just talked.
Tex: You didn't take pictures?
Me: No.
Tex: You didn't go on the internet?
Me: No, Tex. All you could do was talk.
Tex: YOU COULDN'T PLAY GAMES!?!?!?!?!?
Me: No games.
Tex: (Silence)

In the silence I thought how this conversation might go when he is a father or grandfather. I have no clue, but clearly, the next step is in this discussion.

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Gene Detroyer, Professor, Independent

I think this technology is in its infancy. We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. The reality is the technology will not live up to the hype for the everyday user.

Imagine, however, the uses of this technology for the specialized user over time. Think about how a pricing or stocking clerk, merchandiser or store manger would use this technology in a super market, a doctor would use this during surgery, a cop would use this on patrol. I am just touching the surface of the possible uses for this technology.

The key is to remember that a lot the capabilities need infrastructure to support the capabilities, infrastructure that Google is just starting to provide. The real leap is still months, maybe years away. But this is very cool for the early adopters like me.

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Joe Nassour, Chief Technology Officer, RetailTactics

So? People have been wearing technology for several hundred years -- wristwatches, for example. It's just that the technology has advanced a long way. Where the Google glasses are going is into the budding field of "augmented reality," that is, where the world around you responds intelligently to YOUR presence, but in a far more sophisticated way than simply an automatic door opener. The Wii is another manifestation of the phenomena.

Google glasses are not some "golly-gee whiz" futuristic false start, but further deployment of technology in a direction with great promise. The potential of augmented reality is too great, and the implementation too close to practical deployment, to be a fad. However, holographic projections may win the day for deployment, over simple glasses. See also, Zeyez, as related to this, and our own EyeCam of a half dozen years ago was/is a significant learning platform.

I should note too, that for every person studying the human size of these developments, there is at least 100 developing technology, with imaginary, or incredibly thin understanding of the human component. Your own thoughts of how you would relate to this is probably a joke compared to reality. Probably mine too! ;-)

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Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor TNS Global Retail & Shopper, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute

Retailers and brands alike will face both challenges and opportunities as wearable computing gain traction. Augmented reality at retail can provide some pretty great opportunities for wayfinding, promotions, and customer service. This is yet another area where retailers and CPG brands can either collaborate or work on their own discrete programs. And of course, the e-commerce players providing some of the platforms for consumer use (Google, Amazon) are hoping that they'll have a distinct advantage for capturing more online sales and customer mindshare.

There are many naysayers regarding "glasses-based" augmented reality applications. However, as with any technology, it will only get better over time. And it's probably not wise to disregard the opportunities or not take this into account as part of a multichannel digital strategy.

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Matt Schmitt, President & Chief Experience Officer, Reflect

As this evolves, the human body and brain will adapt. We will form more brain mass to accommodate the sensory input and smaller arms, legs, and torso because we don't need to do anything physical anymore. Technology will do it for us.

ET, here we come.

I can rarely turn on my Apple Phone without getting bombarded with ads, text and images, most of which are unwanted. Now to walk into a store and have a produce special flash into my right eye? Not yet please.

'GMROI'

It's probably worth noting that the Google glasses in the video are not actually in existence. This is a concept video, of what they are working on, not a demonstration from a prototype. This particular instance could end up being vaporware.

However, in my judgment, augmented reality (AR) is a SURE thing. The point of the wristwatch history is to show this is just a further step in a long continuum.

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Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor TNS Global Retail & Shopper, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute

If the reality is ever anything like the concept video, I want it!

'tmlens'

I love it, bring it on ... although, when I see stuff like this, it reminds me of what my Swedish grampa said to me when he heard me playing Jimi Hendrix one day; "boy, I've got to check out of this place pretty soon...." When I look up and see a huge ad on the moon, that'll be the time I say that too. I'll probably be seeing it through my Google glasses.

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Lee Peterson, EVP Creative Services, WD Partners

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