Google Glass: A First Person Account

Oct 03, 2013

The market information company, TNS, recently released a study on wearable computing which found the majority of consumers are not ready for wearables. It seems that while three-fourths of consumers "are aware of at least one type of wearable computing device," only nine percent are currently interested in using them.

"Wearable computing is still in its infancy," said Tom Buehrer, senior vice president of TNS, in a statement. "The main challenge lies in convincing people of its value and developing a device with mass appeal. The future of computing will be wearable, the question is, which kind of computers will people actually wear?"

The study found 52 percent surveyed would prefer to wear a wrist-based smartwatch or smart bracelet. The second best place for a wearable, selected by 24 percent of consumers surveyed, was on their arm. Only five percent of consumers want a device on their eyes.

This study’s findings are in direct contrast to my personal experience. You see, I’m a Google Glass Explorer and wear my device on a daily basis as part of Google’s beta test. When I go out in public, the response from passersby is one of delight and true curiosity at how Glass works and what it does.

People are genuinely interested when I explain my use of Glass is mostly hands free. I activate the device with a head motion and use voice commands to make phone calls, send text messages, visit YouTube and get directions while driving. I also use Glass to do comparison shop while in stores. After learning these details, most everyone asks when they will be able to buy Glass.

I believe tech companies producing wearables need to get the devices in the hands of consumers so they can touch and play with them, thereby removing any mystery and creating quicker adoption.

Just imagine a busy mom pushing a cart, trying to keep track of her kids and attempting to compare prices or find a review on a product. Now, instead of fumbling with a smartphone, she can activate Glass through a head motion and use voice commands to get price comparisons, product reviews, watch high-resolution video demonstrations, learn about coupons and upcoming sales — all hands free.

This is just one small example, but illustrates what I believe are two of the best features of wearable computing, immediate access to information and ease of use. I believe that sooner rather than later, everyone else will discover this, too.

Will wearable technology achieve mass appeal more quickly or slowly than current research suggests? What will the mass adoption of wearable computing devices mean for retailers?

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19 Comments on "Google Glass: A First Person Account"

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Zel Bianco

I am conflicted on this one. On the one hand, or wrist, the fact that people will not constantly be looking down at their phone and walking into each other and into traffic, I think is a good thing and perhaps will make people more social once again. On the other hand, or head, is a device that will at least keep one looking forward instead of down, but will seem like we’ve all become robotic and less human. I can’t argue with the busy mom who needs both hands to chase after the kids, however. I do agree that when people actually get their hands, uh heads, around the these devices, the number of people that feel they are ready to use them will go up.

Ryan Mathews

TNS may have a point here.

A mass appeal wearable computing device is still not quite in sight, but my answer is that it will achieve scale sooner than later. For now it’s still an early adopter, technofashionista market, but the masses aren’t far behind.

What will this mean for retailers? Hopefully it will mean they finally start to rethink their entire approach to customer interfaces rather than building a new silo to address every latest wave of technology.

Oh … sorry … this level of integration of technology and the user isn’t another channel, it’s a fundamental change in the way people will live their lives.

Joan Treistman

When the brand new concept of microwave ovens was introduced in research, consumers were not especially warm to owning one. The technology was so foreign from their day to day that they could not make the mental leap to a personally relevant and desirable ownership.

Karen’s article reconfirms that challenge of a verbal introduction. We need to experience the innovation…and often over time. That’s why early adopters are so important for promoting new technology. Karen was selected to be that early adopter who would maximize the applications and share the experience with others.

With regard to mass appeal of wearable technology I believe that initial cost will be a factor. And when the price comes down, the barriers will fall. When the risk to trial is low, trial will explode. Retailers need to anticipate how consumers will use these devices for their in store visits and be early adapters (not only adopters).

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Early adopters will be trying it as soon as possible. How quickly that moves to rapid adoption depends upon whether the benefits are strong enough to overcome the perceived inconvenience of a wearable device. Is hands-free operation alone strong enough to generate that adoption? Depends upon whether access to tools is more important than the perceived inconvenience of being always connected, literally.

Craig Sundstrom

So the first question is really “which will end up being the 8-track tape of the 21st century?” With all respect to Ms. Herman, I just can’t see – no pun intended – that something which interferes with the visual field, however slightly, will catch on.

And the other question is the one I guess we should really be talking about, since this is RetailWire not DeviceWire: What will the effect be? Presumably more of what smartphones produce now…i.e., an effect, but not as large as many expect.

Max Goldberg

Wearable technology will achieve mass appeal when Apple and others introduce computer watches at price points that put the devices in the price range of most consumers. Google Glass, at $1500 is beyond the reach of most consumers.

I think Google Glass is a great idea and look forward to owning one in the future, when its price comes down.

Retailers will be impacted in a number of ways. Price comparison will become even more ubiquitous. With hands free, consumers could quickly check in-store offers through QR codes. Augmented reality apps will help consumers create and use shopping lists and navigate stores.

We are just beginning to see the value and uses of wearable technology. The next few years will see many of the devices come into the marketplace, where consumers will figure out which ones will catch on and which will become relics.

Bob Phibbs

I get it for nerds, but I doubt this has mass appeal anytime soon. People still want to be human – they don’t need or want that much technology literally in their face.

There’s already a backlash brewing over the incessant checking of phones and the need to unplug or be lost in the data.

Warren Thayer

Different folks, different strokes. Personally, I like to unplug whenever I can and disappear into the woods with my dogs. I take my watch.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

When will the consumer have a technology backlash to “digital slavery” of being always on?

Smartphones have revolutionized how people access and consume information. They have also enabled consumers to “showroom” while standing in the retailer’s aisle.

But, with a smartphone you put it back in your pocket or purse and become human again. Wearing glasses, not so much. Right now, both wearable smart glasses and watches are additional technology devices. There is a limit to what a consumer will use after the “fashion” wears off.

One thing is absolutely clear for retailers – consumers are increasingly mobile as shoppers and purchasers, regardless of what type of mobile device they choose to use.

James Tenser

Wearable tech like Glass could be a boon for in-store merchandisers performing reset work, display builders, warehouse pickers, assembly workers, field service people and others who need to “check the manual” while performing exacting work.

So I would expect to see Glass-like technology built into safety eyewear in the near term. Familiarity in the workplace will encourage more types of people to pursue other uses in their personal lives.

Overall, I believe the in-store comparison shopping example may turn out to be kind of trivial compared with the broader spectrum of uses. Sure, it seems to be of vital interest to us RW folks, but the most compelling and interesting applications may not be invented yet.

Vahe Katros

Very nice picture – you took the eek out of geek. I think the iWatch and its relatives will have more appeal.

Lee Kent

I too am conflicted on this one. Being the geek that I am, I love the idea of Glass but, and that’s a big BUT, putting something in front of our eyes, not so good! How would we monitor this?

We can hardly monitor not texting while driving despite it being the law in many states. How would we ever monitor Glassing while driving? While walking? While watching children? Anything that could cause a distraction and end poorly.

We, as a general rule, like and want convenience, however, I do think this needs a little more working out before we can slap glasses on the masses and wait for the ensuing chaos.

As for impact on retail, I totally agree with Ryan. Whatever comes of this, retail will need to be prepared to interact with their customers accordingly and NO, this is not another channel or silo. OMG!

Melissa Snyder
Melissa Snyder
4 years 19 days ago

Eh, I think the internet has jumped the shark in a lot of ways. People are already largely sick of Facebook and Twitter though they continue to participate because it’s part of their day these days. What will people “really” do with Google Glass? Play Candy Crush while supposedly paying attention to their kid’s dance recital? It’s silly. Will I stand in the aisle of Kroger speaking voice commands into thin air to price check my Cheerios? No. Never.

There are a lot more people like me than Google would like….

Kenneth Leung

I equate the Google glass adoption curve to the Blue headset introduction. Remember when the first Blue Tooth headset came out, you see people wearing them all the time almost as an accessory (basically everyone looked like they are connected to the Borg Collective). After a while, people start realizing they don’t really need to wear it all the time and social norms kick in. Now how often do you see people walking on the street with the Blue Tooth on when they are not talking? I see Google glass in a similar phase right now. If you have one, you will wear it all the time for now.

I don’t see mass adoption of Google Glass at this point for general consumer use on a 24×7 basis without a really good continuous usecase.

Herb Sorensen

Given that 90% of ALL the information coming into the brain is from the eyes, Google, as the world’s premier information company, has parked at just the right point to observe what is coming in, and to reach into its big, BIG data to enhance the wearer’s life, adding context to what is seen, and nudging choices.

It’s very much like Steve Jobs said, the customer won’t know what they like until I show it to them. Google has wisely chosen to NOT show the “consumer,” Google Glass, just yet. But they are at the right place, at the right time, and it seems naive to believe they will blow this.

Ralph Jacobson

It obviously seems to depend on where you wear it! If a “Dick Tracy” style smartwatch becomes easy to use, then that will be the first format. Eyeglasses have been imagined for years, and some societies may embrace it faster than others. We’re kind of scared here in the U.S.

Ed Dunn
4 years 19 days ago

“The study found 52 percent surveyed would prefer to wear a wrist-based smartwatch or smart bracelet.”

Many large concert goers, festival goers, marathon races and trade conferences uses RFID wristband technology to move attendees around and collect information.

Wearable technology via wristband has already achieved mass adoption while Google Glass needs to prove itself.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
4 years 19 days ago

What will professional basketball players do, torn between wearing their fake, heavy-black-rimmed eyeglasses and this newest fashion statement, Google Glass? Will we see them wearing the Glass(es) to post-game interviews? Count on it.

I have no conflict regarding wearable technology: They’re just more road hazards. I hope their use while driving is quickly made illegal and I don’t want to be on the street with drivers wearing them.

Seriously, what about those of us with eyesight that requires correction, and who prefer eyeglasses to contact lenses? Heck, we can’t even comfortably wear 3D glasses in theaters, and now we are denied the Google Glass unless we forego our spectacles! It’s an unkind world.

Mike Osorio
Mike Osorio
4 years 19 days ago

The adoption will be swift as a combination of key opinion leader use, affordability, and utility converge. The huge population of Gen Y and Z consumers will find this just the next logical advance and will have no barrier to adoption. Plus the tech savvy boomers and Gen X’ers will be right there with them. As for retailers, you can bet Burberry and other tech-forward brands and retailers will be on the leading edge of connecting to their consumers through these wearables. An exciting time!


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