Will Google Glass take off or fail and become the Segway Mk II?

Every now and again a technology comes along which is so hyped it can’t fail. Often the hype is spread over considerable time, working towards a crescendo that peaks at launch. In 2013, Google Glass carries all of these hallmarks. Every now and again though, this technology fails.

Take the ubiquitous Segway. It was a product that no other than Steve
Jobs once described as ‘as big a deal as the PC’. When one of Americas great visionaries gives a piece of technology hype like that, then you’re entitled to expect big things. After spending 18 months salivating at the device that would change our lives forever, the Segway underwhelmed. It’s lasting legacy is George Bush junior falling off the device that couldn’t be fallen off. Today it finds its place in off-the-beaten-track tourist resorts rather than the streets of the worlds leading cities.

It’s unlikely that Google Glass will fail so miserably, especially considering the ground breaking technology, the marketing power of Google and the general publics insatiable quench for new technology. But neither is it a given that Google Glass will be the success that its pinned down to be.

In the age of consumerism, we’re gulping down new technology. The pool of people classified as early adopters is growing, meaning more people will try new technology quicker. Late adopters are squeezing into the middle ground, willing to five tech a try much quicker then in times of old. This all bodes well for Google Glass.

Yet, make no mistake, Google Glass is no mobile phone, or even tablet computer. Take the case of mobile phones. The general public had no great misgivings about the phone going mobile. In fact, the misgivings they did have were more technical or commercial. Will the battery last long enough for it to be any use? Is the upside worth the high early cost? Yes, some people worried out privacy, don’t they always, but there were no fundamental hold backs. People wanted mobile phones and they sold accordingly. Critical mass was hit as people saw the upsides, including new communication methods such as texting and the assurance of always been able to contact help in times of need.

Tablets had their early sceptics. The iPad was seen as an oversized iPhone at one stage, but market acceptance was quick once the benefits were demonstrated. Tablets were a more portable laptop made for consuming media. In 2010, as today, we all did plenty of that, and widespread TV viewing, newspaper reading and web browsing was beginning to happen on the second screen. Light and super portable with an instant boot up, allowing the user to flick it on and off like a phone (remember horrific laptop boot up times when you just wanted to check something quickly?) – the tablet soon became indispensable. Like the mobile phone before it, the iPad fixed a market need

But Google Glass is no mobile phone or tablet. Like the two aforementioned deceives, it is ‘mobile’. It’s also a new breed of wearable technology designed to enhance our lives. Yet there are plenty of misgivings.

The design is one. Google is not a design led company. They revolutionised search with raw intellectual horse power and weren’t aided by a pretty design. That first google search page, not too dissimilar to today, was plain and white with a markedly less refined version of their current multicoloured logo. For a company famed for its algorithms not its design, its a big step to enter the high fashion World of wearable tech, especially glasses.

It is perhaps telling that this device has not benefited from the wider pool of early adapters, instead, thus far at least, it’s attracting the mega early adapters only. These are the sort of early adapters who’ll try any tech with enough buzz or early cool factor. The newer breed of more regular early adapters are not going crazy for google glass at the moment.

Then there’s the very real privacy concerns. I’m no privacy tsar but even I baulk at what google glass has he potential to do. I don’t want to be recorded by other people everywhere I go. I don’t want to look at other folk, not knowing if they’re recording my every action. Companies are getting nervous too, as only this week USA casinos have started banning them. An omnipresent Internet connection can be abused and Google needs to prove that its found the right balance.

Perhaps above all, google needs to show us a killer user case. The possibilities offered by Google Glass are enough to whet the appetite of any tech lover. They’re a smartphone that you don’t need to pick up. They overlay useful information across your vision, such as closed tube stations, messages and weather updates. None of that is a need to have per se, and a lot can be achieved quickly with the smart phones that we all love.

Finally, there’s the Segway affect, that brings us back around to this articles title. Sometimes tech can be too ‘out there’, too futuristic and ahead of its time. Technology can make wrong assumptions and sometimes the futuristic nature can be too sci-fi and not real world. The Segway assumed we humanity was too lazy to walk. Google glass as subsumes that we are ready to wear out technology boldly, in an omniconnected, always on way.

If Google Glass does fail, then perhaps that would be a good thing. After all, Dr
Xavier in The Man With The X-Ray Eyes eventually gouges out his eyes because of how far he can see. Perhaps technology would then find its limits?