I still remember exactly when the first friend of mine got a mobile phone. It was in 1998, me and my friends had just started university and therefore had moved to different cities across Germany. When we met a few weeks later for the first time again in our home town he put his mobile phone on the table. We were all laughing at him. Why did he need a mobile phone? Was he so “important” that he had to be available wherever he was? Well, no more than 12 months later and everyone of us had one.
And you know what happened since then: Mobile phones got smaller and smaller, then the iPhone hit the market and nowadays mobile phones get bigger and bigger again reaching its maximum with the new Samsung Galaxy Mega – something that most of the people would have called a tablet just 12 months go.
What has all that to do with Google Glass? In the same way that we laughed at my friend 15 years ago people laugh at you when you are wearing Google Glass – at least when you are living outside of San Francisco.
I recently had the chance to pick up Google Glass and try it out for a few days before I handed it over to one of our development teams here at SAP.
When you wear it in public people stare at you like you just ate a huge chocolate doughnut and forgot to wipe your mouth. My wife said she was even ashamed of me wearing it.
Compare this to how you felt when you saw the first of your friends with a mobile phone back in the days.
What exactly is Google Glass?
You wear Google Glass – short “Glass” – exactly like normal glasses, on your nose. Glass comes with clear as well as tinted shades, but you don’t necessarily need them. What makes Google Glass so special is a tiny screen that sits a little bit above your normal eye-view. Glass can connect to your mobile phone via Bluetooth and has a pretty good voice recognition. In addition, it touches the bones behind your ear and in this way allows you to hear sound through vibrations.
This combination makes it possible for you to call people without taking the phone out of your pocket, you can even do video calls. You can also connect Glass with your Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, or Evernote account. Glass can then notify you of incoming emails or tweets and you can write notes and send them wherever you want to.
Through its built-in camera you can take pictures and videos and share them right away like this video that I took from my daughter while she was riding her bike.
You can even ask Google any type of question you like. Similar to Google’s homepage it shows (and reads) you the answer right away:
And finally – in case Google doesn’t know the answer to your question or you want more information – you can even open websites and browse the internet.
Most of the interaction with Glass happens completely hands-free, just with your voice. In addition, Glass also allows you to navigate by touching it and swiping on it, for example to go back through the pictures you took with Glass to share them later.
Is Google Glass really going to change the world?
Will it change the world immediately? Definitely not.
At the moment Google offers Glass only to selected people. From a marketing perspective this is brilliant: They build hype around it because not everybody can just go and buy it. Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wear it at public events. And the people who are willing to spend more than US$1,600 are called Glass Explorers. This restricted access and the high price prevent Glass from becoming a mass consumer product right now. But this might already change pretty soon. According to multiple people who disassembled Glass the pure hardware costs are not more than US$300-400.
Remember the very first mobile phones? No? I never had seen one in reality either. But here’s a picture of the very first mobile phone from Motorola according to Wikipedia
And now think about where we are today.
Just a few days ago Samsung announced their first smart watch that connects to your mobile phone and Sony is offering their SmartWatch since quite some time already.
The idea to have a wearable device that connects to your phone – or maybe in the end replaces it – made people spend more than 10 million Dollar in total on smart watches like Pebble on crowdfunding site Kickstarter in May 2012 or 1.5 million Dollar for Kreyos just recently on Indiegogo. So there’s definitely a market for connected devices like this.
Even though the Explorer edition of Google Glass that you can currently get is an amazing piece of technology, it also still is an early version of it. For example, there are only a very few apps for Glass approved by Google so far. But this will change very soon after they start selling it to everybody.
Also its battery life is unbelievably bad at the moment. But this should also not be a difficult thing to improve – maybe even before the public launch.
The one major concern that I have at the moment is that I got extreme headache while wearing it. Was that because I focused too often, for too long on the screen? Would this go away if I would just use it in my daily life as I’m supposed to do? Is this something that only happened to me? I don’t have the answers to these questions. I just know that this needs to get fixed if there’s any chance that Glass can cause this kind of headache.
Once these things advance further Glass or similar devices will start appearing everywhere.
And as soon as they also get the ability to make phone calls itself, smart phones will completely be replaced by them.
In my opinion, instead of having our mobile phone in our hand all the time and sporadically using Google Glass, this behavior will switch: Glass will include all technology you need to connect to your services on the internet and your work- or reading-device will connect to the internet through Glass. Because all the major hardware is moved into Glass, your phone or tablet won’t need all that hardware anymore and will become incredibly light. What stays is basically just a screen. Now this screen can become bendable, maybe you can even fold it or roll it. And you will only have to use it when you really need to read a lot of text or work in spreadsheets or presentations.
Welcome to the future.
What do you think about Google Glass? Would you try it if you had a chance? Let me know in the comments.