Google Glass goes on the defensive

Mar 24, 2014

Facing a loud backlash well before its launch, Google last week in a Google+ post addressed 10 "myths" around Google Glass.

The criticism — including outright bans at restaurants and early testers being called "glassholes" — comes from people creeped out by being potentially recorded or even just viewed by people while they’re online.

"Myths can be fun, but they can also be confusing or unsettling," Google wrote in the post. "And if spoken enough, they can morph into something that resembles fact."

[Image: Google Glass]

Here, a paraphrasing of Google’s response to myths around Glass:

Myth 1 – Glass is the ultimate distraction from the real world: Instead of looking down at your cell phone, computer or tablet, Glass "allows you to look up and engage with the world."

Myth 2: Glass is always on and recording everything: Video is off by default and set to last only 10 seconds when recording. "Always-on recording" would kill the battery in 45 minutes.

Myth 3 – Glass Explorers are technology-worshipping geeks: Parents, firefighters, zookeepers, brewmasters, film students, reporters and doctors are among the early Glass testers.

Myth 4 – Glass is ready for prime time: It’s still in prototype stage and will be for some time. "In the future, today’s prototype may look as funny to us as that mobile phone from the mid 80s."

Myth 5: Glass does facial recognition (and other dodgy things): It doesn’t and "just because a weird application is created, doesn’t mean it’ll get distributed in our MyGlass store."

Myth 6: Glass covers your eye(s): It sits above the right eye "because we understand the importance of making eye contact and looking up and engaging with the world, rather than down at your phone."

Myth 7 – Glass is the perfect surveillance device: "Much better cameras out there than one you wear conspicuously on your face."

Myth 8 – Glass is only for those privileged enough to afford it: Many early users of the prototype, which costs $1500, had work pay for it, raised money on Kickstarter and Indiegogo to buy it, or received it as a gift.

Myth 9 – Glass is banned … everywhere: The same guidelines around recording with cell phones (locker rooms, casino floors, etc.) apply to Glass.

Myth 10 – Glass marks the end of privacy: Cameras are everywhere.

Many bloggers argued that Glass would inevitably be only for the privileged and that facial recognition would arrive regardless. Despite omni-present cameras, a device camera-ready at all times may further reduce privacy and life’s spontaneity. Wrote Thomas Claburn for InformationWeek, "Some things in life are best experienced in all their glorious impermanence, unrecorded and unmediated."

On the plus side, Google was roundly praised for stressing that Glass is a prototype and given credit for their unusual lengthy public test of the device. The product expected to come out in late 2014.

Has Google adequately defended itself against negative reactions to Google Glass? Which concerns expressed in the backlash will likely be the most challenging for Glass to overcome?

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16 Comments on "Google Glass goes on the defensive"

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Max Goldberg

Glass detractors are a jealous and fearful bunch. New technology often brings out expressions of fear and anxiety. Glass, as Google says, is a prototype. It was one of the first wearable technologies. As such it will attract false claims and accusations.

Knowing that the public is split, and that there is a vocal minority of detractors, Glass users should go out of their way to be courteous. People frequently fear what they don’t know and won’t let facts get in the way of their opinions.

I look forward to see where Google takes Glass and many of the other new technologies they are currently working on.

Ed Rosenbaum

Do you think Google’s problem is they may have come up with an idea that does not satisfy the general audience?

Steve Montgomery

Google may have covered all the top objections, but I still believe the technology has a long way to go before it is ready for wide acceptance in the marketplace. I expect those myths to grow rather than fade away as more people come into contact with Google Glass wearers.

The one issue that I don’t expect to be addressed soon is the cost. As with any new tech, the cost at first is always high, but in most cases it drops as production ramps up and competitors enter the market.

Cathy Hotka

Most of these examples are too precious for words, but #10 (cameras are already everywhere, so get over it”) is guffaw-worthy. Sure, cameras are everywhere, but they’re surveillance cameras designed to keep the public safe. I hardly think that the glasshole behind me in line at the grocery store is attempting to ensure my safety.

Come on.

Bob Phibbs

The push back looks like it is going to be huge – regardless of how far away full adoption is expected. In a “Rise of the Machines” world, maybe people are starting to notice how inhuman the world is becoming, and Google glass is the public face of it.

Todd Sherman
Todd Sherman
3 years 6 months ago

These myths are are all Google-centric short-term questions. In the bigger picture, the broad use of this technology is inevitable. It will be less intrusive (for both the user and the world at large) and much more affordable in the very near future.

While Google Glass has generally been treated as a momentous and distinct step forward, it is much more a small evolution of along the current path of smartphones albeit with a new form factor. (Change the word “glass” to “smartphone” in each of the myth statements to see how familiar the issues are.)

We are in a very interesting era where technology is making many, many new capabilities/experiences possible. The question is how we will adopt or reject them. If recent history is any guide, all of these myth/issues will very soon fade into the background. Our approach so far has been “because we can, we will.”

Christina Ellwood
Christina Ellwood
3 years 6 months ago

It’s a start. They will need to educate the public and help to establish social norms. There are other products with similar concerns, so they should consider a coordinated effort.

Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
3 years 6 months ago
My best analogy for the misplaced outcry over Google Glass is the high-speed easy pass lanes on the thruway. I have watched as the same cars who slammed on their brakes as they anonymously passed a stopped police car merrily speed through the high speed easy pass lane which records their identity. As Myth 7 on the Google list says, there are cameras everywhere and to think someone imagines they are surreptitiously recording what is in their line of sight is overacting. Having said all that, I have to agree there is a little “creepiness” about seeing the glasses being used in public. I can understand special use cases and the need to test out the glasses and processing software in a public setting, but it is still unnerving. One of the biggest challenges we face when designing retail applications is understanding the physical world in which the retail operator is performing. One day the store manger will be able to walk his location with a pair of Glasses on and the store signage, shelf layouts, even the shelf tags (will we ever need electronic tags) will all be validated. He will complete his store walk and a list of… Read more »
Liz Crawford

This is an interesting case of pre-launch buzz gone wrong. Usually, there is anticipatory excitement before a new product launch, especially where there have been some seeded testers. Not so in this case. The non-testers are so freaked out by a potential invasion of privacy (X-Ray Vision!) that they are trying to be sure Glass is DOA.

I think that from a marketing and PR perspective, this launch could’ve been handled more adroitly. First, Google should take a lesson from old-school marketers – do your homework. A few focus groups of non-users would have told the tale of luddite fear. Pre-empting those fears with assurances and transparent policies would have averted most of the negative publicity.

Second, there should have been a few celebrities with the glasses. Celebrities have followers. Choosing a few stars in different social sectors would have helped those groups to scale the hurdle of acceptance.

gordon arnold

The amount of time and money wasted on the creation and distribution of rebuttal to the naysayers is typical of a management team leading with their emotions. Google needs to let go of the dog’s tail and engage the market with product information that discloses both potential and positives. The company’s focus and direction must always be right in the face of the market to drive sales for new and innovative product built to use the latest in proven technology.

The cautious consumer will always be slow to jump in with anything new and the competition that is handcuffed to a maturing and/or outdated architecture, maybe like camera companies, is going to use negative feedback to slow consumer enthusiasm. The art of sales starts with engaging the consumer/market and never arguing with anyone for any reason.

Vahe Katros

The glasshole uproar was fueled around the SF and the Valley due to the antics of beta tester Sarah Slocum. It became a big deal on regular and social media – Google her to get the back story. This schism may be part due to the differences between Google-geek culture and Apple-geek culture – technology as fashion.

Kenneth Leung

The push back is huge because of the camera and privacy. The reality is for the consumer, I think they should have offered a Google Glass with no camera on it which wirelessly tether to camera on a phone when you need to do imaging.

That would take care of the privacy concerns, and I personally would get it so I don’t have to stare at my phone to and type on half a screen

It would lower the cost, save battery life, and work as a Heads Up Display with location and motion sensors, and save the Glass camera version for business/industry specific work where the camera is useful and privacy is less of an issue.

What do you all think?

Larry Negrich

With all of the privacy issues in the news, Google has had to go on the offensive to protect this product. Privacy concerns will be something Google will have to stay in front of in order to keep consumers focused on the positive aspects of this product.

If handled correctly, I don’t see these objections having much of a detrimental impact on the product. I think the apprehension, fear, hysteria (and in many circles, euphoria), demonstrate the positive disruption this type of wearable device could (and will) bring to many existing markets, technologies, and social environments. The device definitely can be used for all types of distracting and socially questionable activities. But bad behavior is the fault of the person and not the device. Functionality, integration, applications, style, and price/value ultimately will determine the success of failure of this type of wearable device.

Craig Sundstrom

Much as with libel, truth is always a valid argument; so if the main complaints are not “myths” but “it’s rude to put a camera in someone’s face” or “the video is a distraction to the user,” Google doesn’t really have much defense to offer. And I concur fully with Cathy: claims such as “it’s not for the privileged because…you can get it as a gift” are so silly they would have been better off making it only a Top 5 list.

Lee Peterson

First, I just have to say, “glassholes” is one of the best things I’ve heard in quite a while — kudos to the author; pretty much says it all.

Between the NSA and Google Glass, you have to wonder when the “rejection of tech/get off the grid” movement will gain full momentum. For sure it’s beginning generationally, just like having a computer did in the first place did, but this time from people who have lived with its intrusion their entire lives. It’s def happening to me now.

I saw today that Jimmy Carter sends hand written letters to world leaders because he knows he’s being monitored. Good idea, thanks. Maybe that’ll stop the Amazon adds I get on every web site I look at.

Karen S. Herman

Wow, if you could only see what I see…#throughglass, then you may understand my immediate reaction of taking a deep breath and shaking my head at the fact that Google has to once again address and discount the same misunderstandings about Glass that I’ve seen debunked more than a few times over the past 10 months that I’ve been an Explorer.

But, in for a penny in for a pound, right? I know the negative reactions will continue to meander in one form or another and Google will keep righting the ship in a positive manner that educates the public and prepares the marketplace for Glass.

Frankly, I loved this rather pithy response from Google. And Glass is so worth the effort.

Rock on, Google!


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