Are We Ready for Glass?

Dustin Curtis:

All fashion issues aside–and there are many, of course, because the device looks kind of ridiculous to the uninitiated–it is extremely unnerving to be conversing with someone who has a camera and microphone on their face, pointed directly at you, with the ability to record. In the presence of someone wearing Glass, you can never have privacy. I had anticipated a feeling of uneasiness, but after experiencing it, I was surprised by how much it bothered me on a visceral level.
I haven't yet fully formed my thoughts on Glass as a product, but if anything ends up preventing the form factor from working, I think it will be from these kinds of social issues. Unfortunately, there are few practical design solutions to the problems short of changing fundamental aspects of how such devices work.

As of late, Dustin Curtis has adopted an extremely even-handed view of Google. Thus, when he shared his thoughts regarding Google Glass, my interest was immediately piqued.

And yet, reading through his thoughts, there's little in the way of revelatory information regarding the experiential nature of the device. He writes of some of the odd nuances of using Glass, his admiration for Google's experimentation, and the obvious social problems inherent within the wearable category — notions which've been widely echoed within the Glass-toting developer and journalist community.

Adding context to this, however, are Tim Cook's D11 comments concerning the category:

“I think there are some positive points in the product,” Cook said. “I think it’s probably more likely to appeal to certain vertical markets. … I wear glasses because I have to. I don’t know a lot of people that wear them that don’t have to. They want them to be light and unobtrusive and reflect their fashion. … I think from a mainstream point of view [glasses as wearable computing devices] are difficult to see. I think the wrist is interesting. The wrist is natural.”

Cook's comments — which were obviously well-rehearsed and outrageously guarded — serve as an apt summary of the widespread reception of Google Glass. That is, all reasonable people recognize the promise and disruptive potential of Glass as a technology, but simply cannot imagine wearing such a device as a layer between social interactions.

I do believe we'll one day arrive at a point at which HUD-esque interactions are standard, but I echo the sentiment that it might be difficult to jump right into this paradigm from the start.

Consider, for example, the venerable tablet computer. The iPad was certainly not a new concept, but rather a well-design revisit to well-trodden territory. Microsoft had been pushing tablet computing through for a decade prior to the iPad's introduction, but the world was just not receptive to such early incarnations. The technology was awkward and ill-fitting and it took a long time to outgrow these sentiments.

In the years leading up to the iPad — the time during which Microsoft continued to push outmoded tablet technology — Apple released the iPhone. It was a device steeped in obviousness for even the most technology illiterate person — a device which paved the way toward a larger computing equivalent of the device.

I suspect that, if Apple does introduce a wrist-worn device over the next twelve months, we'll witness a similar trajectory. It'll integrate Nike+ technology and consolidate fitness tracking into one, well-considered device, whilst offering many obvious advantages to the consumer. And it'll serve as an apt stepping stone into the world of wearable computing for the years to come.

(Incidentally, Matthew Panzarino wrote a wonderful piece making a similar argument several weeks ago.)

That's not to say Google Glass is a poor piece of technology. Quite the contrary, actually. I consider Glass to be one of the most important and ambitious projects in our industry today, but I simply wonder whether the world is ready for such a device at this stage? I'd like to think so, but it would seem my views are outweighed by a great many.

We're facing a fascinating twelve month window in which that question might be asked by a great many manufacturers. Most importantly, however, we'll see Google pursue the question in earnest and, from the sound of things, Apple might join the conversation, too.