Google Glass: Not Just a Toy Anymore?

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Google Glass may be great for taking videos on the fly, and getting directions without bumping into people on the street. Beyond that, the wearable device has become something of a tired novelty, thanks to widespread privacy concerns and an array of self-aggrandizing characters in the Glass Explorer program. (Even reliable tech booster Robert Scoble has declared he’s no longer interested in using Glass.)

But there’s surprisingly good news for Google in that most mundane of business environments: the warehouse.

The company Active Ants, ships products for 50 online stores, gave Google Glass to its stock pickers, whom take product off the warehouse shelves, check it off an inventory list and ready it for shipping.

During a week-long experiment, Active Ants found that giving Glass and a custom-built stock app to two of these warehouse workers reduced their error rate by 12% — and increased their speed at stock picking by 15%.

Translate that to a major fulfillment operation, such as Amazon, and you could be talking millions in savings.

“Traditionally, the pickers at Active Ants would walk around with pick lists specifying products, locations and quantities,” Jeroen Dekker, a managing partner at the Dutch company. “This information is now displayed on Google Glass.” Dekker outlined four reasons why the wearable device made the pickers more efficient:

The first benefit is that the picker’s hands are now free to access products in the shelves. The second benefit is taking a progressive step towards a paperless world: lists no longer need to be printed, signed and bound. The third and probably the biggest advantage is the time saved by sending orders directly to the Google Glass, without first printing, signing and binding them. The fourth benefit is error reduction. Since the orders appear one by one on the Glass, orders cannot be mixed or forgotten. The traditional paper pick list contains a long list of all orders, which increases the chance of mixing up or missing orders.

It also needs wider testing: Two workers over one week isn’t likely to convince the world’s larger warehouse operators. But the experiment is at least a glimpse of hope for Google — that its next-generation platform may, like a lot of technology, make money in a market its creators never anticipated.

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