A few months ago, tech pundits were going nuts about Google Glass, the computerized glasses that Google has released to a handful of early adopters.
Entrepreneur Loic LeMeur was so excited he tweeted pictures of his family in them. Tech god Robert Scoble said he was never taking them off. Gadget guru Kevin Smith said he was "blown away."
But I'm still skeptical that Google Glass will be a big consumer hit when Google launches them more broadly next year, unless they significantly change the current version.
For one thing, when you read between the lines of many early reviews you can see that folks mostly want to like the current version of Google Glass rather than actually liking it.
And that's understandable.
The glasses are cool to try on--there's a "wow" factor--but they're expensive ($1,500) and awkward to use. The battery life is poor, the interface is clumsy and complicated, and, except in some special situations, they're not particularly useful.
And then there's the fact that you have to talk to them.
A couple of months ago, I got to try on some Google Glass(es).
It was very cool.
The clock just hangs there in front of you, as though it's projected on a windshield. It's also cool to be able to take pictures of what you're looking at (although there's an annoying lag).
If/when Google gets the Google Glass(es) price down to around $100 or $200 and makes Google Glass(es) look like normal glasses, I could see normal folks wearing them.
But the interface will still be a problem.
The main interface for Google Glass(es) right now is talking to them. And I don't think people want to talk to their glasses.
You can also stroke and tap your Google Glass, but that looks and feels dorky, and if you're going to stroke and tap something, you might as well stroke and tap your phone--a gadget that is right there in your hand and can do everything Glass(es) can do plus a whole lot more.
Absent stroking and tapping, you have to say, "Okay, Glass!" and then tell them what you want to do.
You can say, "Take a picture!" for example.
Then, after a short lag, your Google Glass(es) will snap a picture for you.
That's kind of a cool party trick--something that's fun to try a few times, or something that's good for amusing the kids for a few minutes, like Apple's Siri.
But as the primary interface to your glasses, it's lousy.
For the same reason that Apple's Siri was flawed even before folks figured out that it didn't work all that well.
Because people don't want to talk to their glasses. Or their phones.
This is especially true when you're already talking to someone else. The person you're talking to is already going to be annoyed that you're wearing a device that basically says "I'm only partially here with you, and you're so boring that I need this conversation to be augmented--because anything is more interesting than talking to you." And most socially sensitive people are not going to want to interrupt an already fragile conversation like that to say, "Take a picture!"
They also are not going to want to wander around museums or streets or restaurants saying, "Take a picture!"
They would rather just take the picture quietly, with a phone.
So that's one big issue with Google Glass(es) right now--the interface.
If Google fixes the interface, radically chops the price, comes up with a few things to do that are more useful than taking pictures, improves the battery life, and makes them look like normal glasses, then, perhaps, Google Glass will become a big consumer hit.
In the meantime, I'm skeptical.
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