Can A Google Glass Ray-Ban Makeover Save the Device From Obscurity?
Remember Google Glass, the curious Internet-enabled eyewear that Google introduced to great fanfare last year? Well, since then, a lucky handful of early adopters have been participating in the "Explorers" program, which basically means that they were invited to purchase still-kinda-clunky and early-stage Glass for just $1,500, and to participate in an online community devoted to getting to know the technology. Google hopes to roll out a mass market version of Glass soon — and they just announced they'll be doing it in style. As USA Today reports:
The Internet-connected eyewear will soon become available from the makers of Ray-Ban and Oakley frames. Italian company Luxottica Group announced on Monday a partnership with Google to make wearable technology look less geeky... Luxottica will develop frames equipped with Google Glass, a $1,500 gadget that includes a camera that can take hands-free pictures and video. Google plans to tap into Luxottica's more than 5,000 U.S. stores to help sell Glass once the device is released on the general market – as early as this year.
To many prospective consumers, this probably sounds like welcome news. After all, the current Glass design leaves something to be desired. Because my friends are developing a Glass-based game, I finally got the chance to try a pair a couple of weeks ago, and here is the obligatory selfie:
The Glass frame is very plain chrome with a black hunk of plastic, yet despite its simple elements it still can't even manage to look sleek. And those nose rests on the inside of the lenses stand out badly. It's safe to say that the Glass isn't doing anything for anyone style-wise, as fun as it may be to take pics and Google things WITH YOUR EYES.
However, in my assessment, Google is probably barking up the wrong tree by focusing on refining Glass's form instead of explaining its function. The public at large remains deeply uneasy in the presence of others wearing Glass — or "Glassholes," as they are derogatorily nicknamed. Reports of Glass and other digital eye glass wearers having their equipment vandalized or even being beaten up are emerging at a slow but steady pace. Although people are accustomed to others using smartphones to casually photograph and video record their surroundings, the Glass technology still seems obtrusive, rude, and even wrong to use in public.
So how will hiding the Glass more effectively — by placing it in snazzy, upscale frames — help to smooth the transition to a Glass-filled world? Those who are already uneasy with Glass wearers will now just be extra alarmed to realize that they've been ambushed by covert users. It's like the difference between someone Instagramming their food openly in a restaurant, and taking the pic with a spy cam up their sleeve. The taker of a hidden recording is even more shady, not less.
I'm all for a Glass redesign — maybe some higher-quality materials and color choices. But attempting to hide Glass in designer frames is counterproductive. It'd be better for Google to ramp up its efforts at getting Glass into many enthusiastic users' hands as quickly as possible, so that the social norms and etiquette related to the technology can emerge and develop.