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Will Google Glass Make Smartphones History?

February 22, 2013

The iPhone, I've been told about a gazillion times, changed everything. I've never been quite sure what everything meant in any of the contexts where that particular hyperbole has been used, but I do know that Apple and its smartphone competitors have altered the way we use technology.

The advent of the smartphone meant that some technologies (watches, GPS devices, etc.) went from important to rarely seen or used. It's within this context that I find myself assessing predictions that Google Glass will somehow make smartphones less relevant, if not altogether irrelevant.

Google's wearable computing device has techies abuzz.

"I love it for no other reason than that it actually feels like we are being pulled forward," Ian Shafer, CEO of Deep Focus, told Adweek. "It's hard to say that something like that has happened since the iPhone. The innovation aspect just makes it seem like a big pull forward."

Count Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg among those wanting their own Google Glass, according to Forbes. "I can't wait to get my own," Mr. Zuckerberg is quoted by the magazine.

So what does Google Glass do? According to the website that Google has set up to introduce the technology, it will act as a camera, video recorder, video conferencing tool, direction finder, foreign language translator and more. It will be strong, light and fashionable — in an extremely "Big Bang Theory" sort of way.

[Image: Google Glass]

To build buzz for the product, Google is asking consumers to use Google+ or Twitter to share what they would do if they had a Glass. A select number of those entering will be given the option to pre-order a Glass Explorer for $1,500.

One potential drawback to Google Glass is the style. Will people think the device looks cool enough to wear?

"If my buyer came to me and said he just purchased 1000 units that looked like the Google Glass he would be fired," Jonathan Muller, CEO of eyewear retailer Gaffos.com, told Wired.

Mr. Muller added that while futuristic looking, Google Glass would not appeal to many outside of technology types in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

"It's taken a futuristic approach in design, not something I would call 'in style'," he said. "At this point the Google Glass will not appeal to the mainstream (it just seems like a forehead mounted live camera) and might be relegated to the tech crowd in Silicon Valley and New York."

Discussion Questions:

Will Google Glass alter the consumer tech product landscape in the years to come? What do you think are the biggest challenges standing in the way of widespread adoption of the technology in the future?

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 much more or less of an effect will Google Glass have on how we use technology as compared to Apple's iPhone?


Yes, smart glasses (Google Glass, Vuzix, Golden-i, etc.) are one of the technologies bursting out in the next 2-3 years that are going to trigger the demise of the smartphone. Using a smartphone is a learned behavior and not one that's particularly natural, comfortable or convenient. So after a period of resistance and slow adoption, people will come around to smart glasses, watches and other wearable devices that more closely mimic human interaction. Ironically, I am at this very moment polishing a presentation I'm delivering in a few days on NUI (natural user interface) that will touch on these very points (and others).

So for the naysayers, remember that smartphones were around for many years before they reached a level of acceptance and refinement that finally triggered the hockey stick adoption rates we now see. Wearables will go through the same process and when features, benefits, style, the coolness factor, and price all align, no one will want to be an old-school nerd, holding a phone to their ear.

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

The iWatch, or whatever Apple is going to call its new wearable technology will have a greater impact on business than Google Glass, which I see as more of a gadget than a tool. Like a pair of Beats Chrome headphones ($1,000), Google Glass will be more of a "nice to have" than a "need to have."

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Ron Margulis, Managing Director, RAM Communications

Unless the Google Glass can function as a phone (where you can actually call people, receive text messages and so forth), I don't see it displacing the smartphones that most of us carry today. And any lifelong wearer of glasses would like to live without, not the other way around. I see the idea behind the iWatch (or whatever Apple decides to call it) more compelling, especially if the watch connects to one's smartphone and can alert the user to incoming calls, e-mails, tweets and the like.

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Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

Yes. Wearable technology will be a game changer.

I completely disagree with Mr. Muller. Having the technology and wearing it will be a fashion statement. In addition, it will enable consumers to have all of the features of a smartphone, and much more, while keeping their hands free.

The only thing standing in the way of widespread adoption is price. $1,500 is a lot of money. That said, Google will sell a few million, and as the price comes down, millions more.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Putting a pair of glasses on to go shopping may seem a bit out of the norm now, but early adopters may be seen in a store near you very soon. Headwear actually solves some of the interactive problems that using smartphones presents, when it comes to receiving relevant information at the moment of decision, within the store. First, shoppers want to shop and interact with the products and associates in the store, not their smartphones....glasses can make the interaction with digital content much less intrusive.

Secondly, I envision eyewear ultimately augmenting, not replacing smartphone technology in the near term. Google Glass should facilitate both the conveyance of digital content to the shopper while in shopping mode and directional information, guiding shoppers to deals and/or favorite items.

Forgive the strained analogy, but Google in fact could be the "Apple of my Eye" if this technology proves to be everything it promises!

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Mark Heckman, Principal, Mark Heckman Consulting

After realizing the high rate of near-sightedness worldwide among kids due to overexposure to computers and video games, I do question the human limitation of this device.

Remind me of those 1980s TV goggles people would wear or that toy thing with the slide show wheel the old would play with. Come to find out those things put strain on the human eyes after time.

Sounds good, but I'll wait for an eye doctor's expert opinion on this.

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

Wearable computing will continue to have a rapid pace of adoption over the next few years, right alongside (ind in many cases integrated with) the smartphones—health and fitness, entertainment, communications, and fashion are all experiencing notable innovation.

As for Google Glass we will see. A lot depends on how quickly they can build a developer community. Replacing the smartphone in the short to medium term seems a stretch.

Paul R. Schottmiller, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Retail and Consumer Goods, Merkle

Smartphone adoption has had the fastest adoption rate of any technology, ever. Smartphone adoption happened ten times faster than PC adoption in the '80s. Significantly faster than television adoption when it was first introduced to the market.

Personally, I would love to own a pair of Google Glasses regardless of the style. However, I do not foresee it having as big of an effect as mobile phones. The cost, safety, and style will have a negative impact on the widespread adoption. One thing Google can do to solve this problem is to reduce the size of the glasses while also reducing the cost of the technology. One way they could do this is instead of having a CPU built into the glasses, they should use blue tooth technology with the already existing smartphones that we all use.

Matt Lincoln, IT eCommerce Business Analyst, Quill.com

I have no way of knowing if Google Glass is the next big thing to hit the market. Sure Mark Zuckerberg wants it. Why not? He is a techie living in a techie world. Something is going to be the next big thing to hit the market just as the Smartphone was and is. But will it be Google Glass? Who knows?

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

Interesting tech. With all the bans on driving with non-hands free cell phones because of the distraction they pose (realize many say that talking on the phone hands free or not is too much distraction), I wonder how long it will take for the legislative bodies to state that the wearing of Google Glass is illegal while driving.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

I do think the idea of wearable technology is something to think about, but I just don't see Google Glass being the end-all, be-all. It seems to me to be a wearable camera. That's just another way to say, hands-free device. When we see all the functionality of the smartphone, totally hands-free, and I don't mean blue tooth stuck in your ear, now that will be a game changer. I also think the idea of having video and/or internet connectivity right in your eye will be heavily contested as a safety issue. Can you honestly use it and not be distracted? Just sayin'.

Lee Kent, Sharing Insights for Success in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

Google Glass might be a fun novelty, but in the end I think that people like to feel the freedom of not having anything covering any aspect of their face. Millions of people spend thousands of dollars a year to have Lasik surgery so that they don't have to wear glasses.

John Leach, Contextual Researcher, Doblin, Inc.

I'm amazed at how many people are going gaga over these. But I suppose it makes sense. The technorati are desperate for another amazing invention that will revolutionize the world.

But I don't see it. What I'll predict we see is that the hoopla will continue until they're released—and then they'll go the way of the Segway. In other words, value in targeted situations but not the general "you'll wear them everywhere" value that's being hyped.

So what should we all do? Focus on business. Supposing I'm wrong, you'll still have plenty of time to worry about Google Glass later...history doesn't show that there are tremendous benefits going to those retailers who live at the bleeding edge of technology.

Until then, we can sit back and enjoy these video' while wondering at why the tech guys are so crazy about this. After all, the hand selected guru quoted in this article can't say anything deeper than... "It's the innovation aspect that makes it feel like a big pull forward."

Doug Garnett, Founder & CEO, Atomic Direct

When technology takes another step, there is no reason to believe that one or more current technologies are in danger of extinction. The greatest cause of death or doom in IT is stagnation. Adding more of the same or thinking you have done enough is suicide.

As long as you monitor the IT industry you will never cease to be amazed at how inanimate junk can and will be made intelligent for practical use. In the future we might see things like rings, watches, broaches and maybe even magic wands included in the race for the latest and greatest.

Retailers wishing to stay in tune with the latest and greatest gadgets will focus on communication and exploitation. Building a company's IT enterprise system that maintains optimum performance for consumers using any device will give the greatest continuing ROI. Betting on the beepers and "apps" of this world is a sure loser.

The financial size and even existence of Apple, GOOGLE and other IT giants is a roller coaster ride with high fatality rates that other industries need to be constantly aware of for the purpose of their own survival.


The technology is very intriguing.

The specter of wearing them is about as attractive as having a Blue Tooth ear piece (the "Spock Ear" to some) hanging off your head. At one time they were a required accessory of the cell phone savvy. Now they are the mark of the nerd.

This technology will be a game changer. But it will have to be in a less obtrusive physical form. The Apple iWatch might get me to break down and buy something Apple besides the stock for once.

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Ben Ball, Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe

Remember when cell phones were bricks, could only make and receive calls and were extremely expensive? People used to question why some early adopters would want to carry a brick in their pocket, pay so much to do so, and look like tools holding those bricks to their ears. Well, the answer is obvious: convenience and functionality.

I think we should look at Google's Glass not as how it looks like now, how much it costs now, and the list of things Google says the Glass can do (by the way, they're not revealing everything, and certainly working on many other things the Glass will do), but rather at what it helps us do in a much more convenient and functional way than we currently do with other less functional devices (i.e. smartphones).

Just 18 months ago the Google Glass looked horrible and weighed 6 pounds! Now it looks kind of cool and weighs less than most glasses. Imagine how it will look and what it will help us do 2 years from now. Maybe 5 years from now it won't even be a wearable device but rather an implant in the form of a contact lens.... Bye bye smartphones.

Santiago Vega, Founder & CEO, NewBandDaily LLC

If in another discussion I found a hero in one of the commenters, here I found a hero in the host: props to George for calling out empty hyperbole.

As to "Glass" itself, I have two thoughts:

1) Yeah, that's cool - maybe even "kewl" - and...

2) We often hear—even beyond the "dollar store" and Walmart threads—how the world is being divided into haves and have-nots, the former jetting around the globe in search of frivolous pleasures, the latter lucky to get Labor Day at the Shore (or what's left of it)

"...video conferencing tool, direction finder, foreign language translator"...I don't have much doubt which segment this will find most favor with.


Many are excited about big, BIG data, as I am. But the holistic picture here is of one carrying their personal supercomputer on their person, with the real computing power residing "in the cloud," where all the data is. This means that the personal device's main role is as input/output (I/O) to the cloud—and whole wide world of what can be known.

Since 90% of all the information coming into the brain comes from the eyes, not the ears, having an attached camera and screen is almost absolutely required going forward, and Google is absolutely on the right track. This is regardless of how near this is to the "final connection," an ultimate "smart phone" in some way, shape or form. (And not to denigrate the voice and ears for I/O, as Google Glass manages sound as well.)

Ultimately, a HUGE issue, the solution to which is slowly emerging is "how does this device know who its owner is?" This is a massive problem because from a privacy point of view, just like the smart phone, the device will have access to massive personal data—including what you have seen. Not the occasional click of the present day smart phone camera (snapshot or video,) but continuous streaming, potentially, of social and commercial transactions.

Marrying all this Google Glass stream of data, including everyone it sees, every commercial or non-commercial transaction, etc., including all GPS locations, phone calls, etc., etc., will represent a massive challenge. Your Google Glass will effectively know a lot more about you than you do. It will become your alter ego.

There must be absolutely no possibility that someone you don't want to, can have access to the device. It's not just a matter of "Silent Circle" managing the SECURITY of the data transmission, but also that the "personal recognition" bond will come from well advanced "Kinect/Primesense" technology. This technology, or something related MUST allow my Google Glass/smartphone to recognize me better than my dog Penny does. No errors allowed.

It's a beautiful world!

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Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor Kantar Retail; Adjunct Ehrenberg-Bass, Shopper Scientist LLC

We're a funny species. Here in California, when hand-held telephones were outlawed while driving vehicles, there was a "run" on Bluetooth earphones. Lots of people were wearing them...for a few weeks. When most of them realized how stupid-looking and bothersome they were to wear, the earphones virtually disappeared.

Now we have this marvelous device that no one outside of the hard-core geek circles will dare to venture onto the streets wearing, dare I say that technology needs me to satisfy my reasonable needs and wants, while looking fashionable and not making me look goofy.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

I have looked at this and while novel, I can't see that much use for it. In its current form, I don't think it will blow the doors off anything. If it was that great it would already be on the market. It would seem that this is a trial balloon. Very interesting, but would probably need to be integrated into conventional eye-wear (a little less flashy) to gain wide adoption, unless Google decides to sell them for $29.95, then everyone would buy one and put it on a shelf.

Ed Dennis, Sales, Dennis Enterprises

I love it when anyone says "... will not appeal to the mainstream." Remember the same geniuses who said no one would want a computer in their home? The idea of natural feeling, wearable virtual interfaces is elegant and the logical evolution of digital communications and interactive technology.

The Google Glass looks very cool and only the price will hold back an initial rush to try. This and other wearable devices will be the launch pad to an eventual array of affordable devices the masses will be adopting in the next decade. Watch for Asia to lead the way, as they have with mobile advances.

Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

The combination of voice-driven commands and the newness of the form factor makes this invention more like telephones and less like smartphones. Telephones replaced the touch-based telegraph with voice-activated instant communication. It was a disruptive shift in technology and behavior. Smartphones took two existing products (PDAs and cell phones) and mashed them together with a superior user experience.

Since it's inventing rather than replacing, Google will have a better chance of owning setting the O/S standard, particularly if it can take advantage of existing familiarity with Google maps and navigation, voice-based search and Android.

This makes Glass a departure from other recent consumer technology breakthroughs. iPods were a more convenient replacement for CD players. DVD players were a more powerful replacement for VHS. Gaming consoles were a more social replacement for PC games.

This also makes Glass a departure from Google's typically ad-driven monetization model (can you imagine Adwords on that tiny screen?). How Google succeeds when the revenue is mostly coming directly from the consumer is the other disruption afoot.

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Dan Frechtling, SVP Product and Marketing, CMO, G2 Web Services

My feeling is that Glass will be widely embraced at the consumer level but, even more interestingly, as a design tool offering real time collaboration and enhanced experiential opportunities for project teams. Initially, learning how to use Glass will be a challenge, and obviously is why Google is expected to enter into brick and mortar by end of 2013.

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Karen S. Herman, Founder/Retail Design Strategist, Gustie Creative LLC

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