January 8, 2015

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Wearable Glass Technology - Will you buy it?

One of the most hyped consumer products today is the eye glass with a screen (Example: Google Glass). Priced at USD 1500-2000, it is an expensive piece of equipment to own. I got my hands on one of these and was quite excited and fascinated by its overall look and feel.   Almost immediately, I paired it up with my mobile phone, and my journey to explore this wonderful device commenced. I started taking hands-free pictures by just saying “Okay Glass, Take a Picture”. I was able to upload it online and post comments by just using voice commands. After the initial excitement wore off, I was able to look beyond and explore the practical usage of this wonderful new gadget.

In this blog, I want to present my point of view on wearable glass technology and try and figure out if this gadget will be a hit in the already exploding wearable market or if it will die a natural death.

First, let’s look at the pluses. I am segregating them into various categories and analyzing each of them.

  • Phone Stays in the Pocket: One of the obvious benefits is that once you pair your phone with the Glass, your phone can pretty much stay in your pocket, making your hands free for other important tasks. You can make a phone call, send a text, take pictures and videos, and share them online. This is a very handy feature to have.
  • Notifications: A Glass wearer can have a look at his notifications (like a new text, missed call, calendar event, etc.) by just raising his eyes and not take out the phone for the same purpose.
  • Enjoy the Moment: The wearer can enjoy the moment by not taking out the camera or phone to take pictures. The Glass can take the picture or video for you while you are watching it. The wearer will still be able to take action on important notifications, etc.
  • Maps & Directions: Wearable glass can be used for navigation purposes without putting the life of the wearer in danger. The user just needs to raise his eyes to view the navigation as opposed to taking out the phone to have a look. So, the user can look at the road and navigate at the same time.
  • New Way to Search: Hands-free Googling is the way to go. You can search through voice commands. For e.g., if you want to know about the Eiffel tower, you can just ask the question to Google Glass and it will show you pictures, history and other information about the monument.
  • Real Time Video Streaming: Imagine you are attending a wedding or an important function but your spouse is not with you. You can wear the Glass and share the live video feed with them and make them part of your experience.
  • Speak Many Languages (Translation): One of the very neat features is translation, wherein your Glass can hear a sentence and translate it for you. Also, it can read a sign/image and then translate it in your preferred language.
  • Healthcare Business Uses: The healthcare industry will benefit immensely in improving efficiency and accuracy as doctors and nurses will now be able to read barcodes or NFC tags to identify patients and get their medical records and medication with the dosages. Surgeons can use the Glass during surgeries and take assistance from somebody sitting in a different location altogether.

There are practically so many benefits and use cases that it is difficult to list them all here. Ranging from troubleshooting in the mechanical world, trainings, education and assisting disabled people - the possibilities are practically unlimited.

Now, looking at the all the above benefits, it appears that wearable glass is definitely a gadget that can help us a lot, but as with all gadgets, there is a flip side to them as well. Some of the negatives are even driving some users to return the Glass back to vendors. Let us look at the negatives now.

  • Too Costly: A USD 1500-2000 price tag is very high as compared to the features that this device can offer. The tear down of one of the leading components reveals that the actual price of the hardware should be around USD 200-250 at the most. One of the reasons could be that the developer of Glass wanted to filter the kind of people who are interested in wearable and mobile technology so that only those who understand would be able to comment on the product and not just anybody. However, these are just the initial days for wearable technology. Let us see how developers would take up this challenge.
  • Battery Drainer: Providing a battery in a wearable device was anticipated to be challenging. The battery on the Glass protrudes over the wearer’s ear which looks awkward, and the battery life is quite disappointing. Even a normal user would drain the battery in around 3 to 5 hours. This is far too low. Couple this with battery heating issues and this spells trouble.
  • Awkward Looking (Geeky): Most people using this fancy gadget get unusual attention and curious looks from others. Designers have designed the Glass very well but it still gives the wearer a geeky look. Although the USP of the glass is that you will be able to maintain eye contact with another person, the wearer is always looking away in to the screen, which is very distracting during a conversation.
  • Privacy Concerns: Various sections of the community have voiced concerns relating to privacy, such as being filmed or clicked without their knowledge. Some companies and stores where security and confidentiality is paramount have already banned wearable glass.

Now, a key question would be:  would a typical consumer buy wearable glass? The answer to that is probably “not right now”, because the price tag is still pretty steep pegged at USD 1500-2000. I personally feel that the Glass has not evolved to a level where an end user can accept it, and on the other hand, end users are also not prepared for this device.

Any new fancy gadget in the market has to follow a typical cycle where it is still evolving and only a few brave hearts living on the edge would play with it and provide the necessary feedback to make it better. As per my understanding, the Glass is still in that evolutionary phase where only a chosen few are playing with it to make it a better product for future generations. There is no doubt that there is a huge market for wearable technologies in the near future but this is the necessary grind and responsibility for an explorer generation to make Glass a better product.

References

http://www.techradar.com/reviews/gadgets/google-glass-1152283/review/7#articleContent

https://www.google.com/glass/start/