Why Google Glass Failed

For 3 times more than you’d pay for a good smartphone, you can buy a  smartphone that you can wear on your face. If the idea of wearing a smartphone on your face doesn’t appeal to you, you are probably not alone. Google Glass went on sale to the general public in May, but information on its sales is almost nonexistent. Had customers been beating down the doors to get these glasses, I’m sure Google would have found someway to let us know. Since they have said almost nothing, it is reasonable to assume that Google Glass has failed. So why did it fail? Here are some basic reasons

1. Design

Google Glass was designed by industrial designer, Isabelle Olsson. Does something seem wrong with this picture? Look, Google. You want people to wear this in public, right? You, then, have two options. Make it inconspicuous or make it conspicuous and fashionable. In the end, it was conspicuous and unfashionable. You might as well wear a sign on your forehead saying “I’m a Nerdy Geek”. Sure, that’s fine when you’re attending the Nerdy Geek Convention, but what happens the first time you walk into a biker bar? Trust me, you don’t want to know. It became clear right away that Glass lacked the ‘cool’ factor. To get it, Google hired designer Diane Von Furstenberg. Now, you can have a stylish smartphone on your face but, because nothing can hide the computer components, you still don’t look cool. Perhaps, this problem will be solved by Google Lens. That’s right, Google has developed a contact lens with a built in camera. Now, no one will know how uncool you are.

2. Etiquette

In the old pre-smartphone age, if you saw a person walking down the street talking to themselves, you’d consider them psychologically challenged. Nowadays, you’d probably assume they were connected to some technology. Listening in to other’s conversations used to be considered bad manners. Nowadays, you can listen in on conversations almost everywhere whether you want to or not. Conversations are no longer considered special realms of privacy and intimacy. They can be interrupted by smartphones at the most inopportune times. Is this something that we simply have to accept as a by-product of technology? If someone begins texting in the middle of a conversation, does it bother you or do you consider it simply the way of the modern world? We are in the midst of a great privacy and etiquette paradigm shift, which is why different people have different reactions to how technology is used. Google Glass pushes the etiquette dilemma to its limits. Those who have experimented with wearing Google Glass claim that many people worry that they are secretly being recorded. If you were having a conversation and someone suddenly pulled out a video camera and started filming you, you’d, at least, have a chance to respond to the action. With Google Glass, you’d never know you were being photographed or filmed, and that adds to Glass’ ‘creepiness’ factor. Voyeurism traditionally had negative connotations. So does Google Glass make it more acceptable? Apparently, most people are not ready to go this far yet. According to Mat Honan, who experimented with wearing Google Glass for one year, “Again and again I made people uncomfortable. That made me very uncomfortable. People get angry at Glass. They get angry at you for wearing Glass.”

3. Security Concerns

Android developer , Jay Freeman, was the first to hack Google Glass to allow the installation of unauthorized software. He noted that, “Nothing is safe once your Glass has been hacked. A bugged Glass doesn’t just watch your every move: it watches everything you are looking at (intentionally or furtively) and hears everything you do. The only thing it doesn’t know are your thoughts.” Or, at least so far. Last week, new tech company, This Place, announced that it had created a device that would allow Google Glass to be controlled by brain waves. Now, all we need is someone to develop the first brain hack and we’ve crossed into a whole new frontier. Or maybe not. Advertisers have been doing much the same thing with our brains for years.

Marc Rogers discovered that Glass could be hacked through a QR code, an example of which appears below.

qrcode.23188174

Glass automatically decodes such code so, if the Glass wearer could be maneuvered into looking at a particular code, Rogers showed that he could get Glass to connect to a particular WiFi connection and lead it into a man-in-the-middle attack. Google has reportedly patched the QR vulnerability, but other researchers have found other ways to take over Glass and insert code. They were especially interested in being able to see the world from the user’s perspective and gain the ability to acquire pin numbers, passwords, and account information. In any event, a recent poll, conducted by market-research firm Toluna, found 72% of Americans list such concerns as the main reason for having no interest in buying Google Glass.

4. Superiority Displays

Back in the early ‘80s, when the yuppie fad was beginning to rear its branded head, some friends of mine told me of the latest trend. Apparently, guys would go into high end bars and clubs wearing their Porsche keys prominently displayed around their necks. This would, apparently, hypnotize young women into entering their lairs. (I thought about wearing my Ford Galaxy keys around my neck but realized that this probably wouldn’t work any better than my Ford Galaxy did.) Needless to say, some of us felt such displays to be cringe-worthy, and I heard that a few even more physical objections to this display ritual had taken place.

When Sarah Slocum walked into a San Francisco bar wearing Google Glass she probably didn’t realize she was making a political statement. What she referred to as “Google Glass haters” began to verbally abuse her and tore the device from her face. There have been other similar attacks.  Glass may serve as a visible symbol of the highly paid tech workers in San Francisco who have been driving up rents and prices and making life more difficult for long-term residents. The tension between these groups has led to a number of protests.  Google became aware of this negative impact and has issued the following warnings to wearers of Glass. Don’t, they say,

“Wear it and expect to be ignored. Let’s face it, you’re gonna get some questions. Be patient and explain that Glass has a lot of the same features as a mobile phone (camera, maps, email, etc.). Also, develop your own etiquette. If you’re worried about someone interrupting that romantic dinner at a nice restaurant with a question about Glass, just take it off and put it around the back of your neck or in your bag.

 Be creepy or rude (aka, a “Glasshole”). Respect others’ privacy and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers.”

 So what’s your verdict? If Google Glass were the same price as a smartphone (about $500), would you buy it? (Give your opinion in the poll below.) According to one poll, 58% of people wouldn’t pay more than $500 for it and 12% think it is only a gimmick. Another poll taken in June, after Google Glass was released, found that interest in the device had decreased since it was first introduced. Of the 7,000 participants in the poll, 41% said they were no longer interested while 28% said they were still waiting to see if developers could make it into something they’d like. Disinterest in the device has increased from 25% when the existence of Glass was first announced. From a marketing point of view, these are damning statistics and can only lead one to conclude that, barring major upgrades, Google Glass has been a failure.

 

About Steve Mierzejewski

Marketing consultant for InZero Systems, developer of the next generation in hardware-separated security, WorkPlay Technology. I've worked in Poland, Japan, Korea, China, and Afghanistan. I'm a writer, technical editor, and an educator. I also do some work as a test developer for Michigan State University.
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