Glass 2.0?

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Really? Are we still talking about Google Glass? Apparently, we are. It looks like Google is planning an extensive re-launch of what is arguably its most divisive product, this time focused on the “Enterprise Edition.”

Just in case you missed my earlier four hundred rants about this product, Google Glass is the wearable tech that evolved the term “Glassholes” to characterize its users. Nothing says, “I’m white, entitled and I know somebody with juice in Silicon Valley” like wearing Google Glass. I tried it on a couple of times, and was reasonably underwhelmed by what it could actually do. However, the substantial product shortcomings never really got a fair hearing in comparison to the avalanche of deserved contempt the “ambassadors” wearing the product generated.

Glass became totemic for everything we hate about “those people.” The harder Google pushed, the more stories emerged about boorish Glass usage. Some of the stories are doubtless urban legend but there were enough of them to lead Google to eventually pull the plug on Glass as a consumer device.

Glass’ upcoming rebirth in the technical and medical fields makes a lot of sense. In the same way a surveyor or doctor might pick up their allocated equipment for each shift, so I can readily see Glass as a useful enterprise tool. The ability to show a distant colleague exactly what’s happening on the job at that point or recall data real-time without having to manipulate a device by hand is a great idea whose time has come.

It’s unlikely that Google will sell anywhere near as many items as they would had they conquered the consumer market as planned, but the numbers they do sell will likely be more robust, have longer battery lives and boast larger, more useful screens. They will also get the public more used to eye-wearables in general. Perhaps after we have gotten used to seeing our doctors or auto mechanics wearing Glass, we will become less bothered by the application as a whole.

Is Google Treading Water? Or Drowning?

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I’m not really a stock market betting guy. It’s a game I’ve never been good at and frankly doesn’t interest me. I do keep an eye on several stocks, though, and one of them is Google. It’s been a tough year for them, and I’m sure their larger investors are letting them have it at their current shareholders meeting. The problem is that they have been more or less flat, showing a 1% decline in a period where the S&P 500 has hit nearly 10% growth.

I have extensively documented the factors driving these doldrums. The rapid move to mobile by users when advertisers have been slower to follow has hurt them. They have swapped desktop dollars for mobile pennies in many categories. The irony of that transition will not be lost on newspapers, who suffered a similar calamity a decade or so ago when print dollars became online pennies.

Having conquered search, they went on to miss out on social media. They missed Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and a bunch of other upstarts that have been pulling users away from Google properties. They also have a penchant for super expensive, “revenue-free” projects like Google Glass, Fiber, Nest, Driverless cars and Loon. That’s fine and dandy when you are king of the hill and leading the pack, but it’s less cool when you are just another online ad platform. Add to those woes the growth of markets over which they don’t have any sway, like Amazon and eBay. It’s tougher to be a Googler than it was a few years back.

At its core, Google is an advertising platform based around an auction system. The explosion of mobile inventory and the slower rate of adoption by advertisers has driven their click prices down month over month. That will likely improve as the ad world catches up, but it won’t be soon.

They need some game-changing, revenue-rich ideas. To that end, they are moving towards being the marketplace and selling goods and services direct, as opposed to being the forum where advertisers pay to reach the audience. It’s a good idea if they can make it work, but it’s also dangerous as they may end up in competition with their own advertisers.

There is talk of them moving into our local space. The idea is that Google becomes the platform which a local business uses to get jobs, then shares the profit on that job with Google (as opposed to merely buying ads to get customers). It’s huge and potentially game changing. It’s also fraught with friction and would require a fundamental change in how the local economy works.

It’s possible that in spite of having a massive war chest of cash and market leadership in something as fundamental as search, the glory days of Google growth are behind us. If they are, Google stands the risk of being discounted in the same way that newspapers were a decade or so ago. Maybe it is already far too far out, and not waving but drowning.

Google Glass Round 2?

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Google Glass seemed to arrive with a bang and then disappear with a whimper. The smart eyewear seemed to always be a hot news topic and offered iconic tech gadget design. For many it embodied the essence of new and exciting wearable technology. However its limited distribution and high pricing caused public interest to wane before the Explorer Program was boarded up in January this year.

The closing of the Explorer program wasn’t about the end of Glass but it graduated from a Google X product to a fully-fledged Google product development. Now we are hearing some information about a new version of Google Glass.

Glass 2, as it has been referred to, is being worked on and will be released soon. Massimo Vian, who is the CEO of the Italian eyewear maker Luxottica, explained his firm’s partnership with Google on the project. He told company shareholders that “We’re now working on version 2, which is in preparation.” Meanwhile a Google spokesperson confirmed that the team is building the future of the product.

With Glass 2 a number of improvements are being implemented. Key enhancements will be a longer battery life, improved sound, better display and a cheaper price tag. By pairing the smart eyewear with more traditional designs it is hoped that Glass wearers won’t be as put off by the bulky framing and ugly design, as was previously the case in some places or situations.

Glass as Fight Club

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The tech portion of SXSW ground to a hipster halt yesterday with the boss of the Google X division sharing insights and updates. As you may recall I’m not a huge fan of Google Glass…I like wearable tech but I always thought the way Google positioned Glass as an elitist ‘too cool for you’ gimmick was flawed.  Back in the day Google reveled in product demand, celebrating the desire from the Brooklyn Bearded ones to decorate their faces with the ultimate symbol of in-crowd cool. The mere fact that the battery life was awful, the functionality clunky and the obvious invasion of privacy concerns were ignored was neither here nor there. In yesterday’s session Astro Teller (yes that’s really his name) pinned most of the blame for Glasses failure on the way Google over hyped the project.  In effect they misled their audience to think that it was a cool finished piece of cutting edge tech as opposed to a cool looking but clunky second screen for an Android phone. In short they talked it up…then talked it to death.

Google loves long betas. as I recall their main search was in “beta” for five years.  That’s fine with a free to use web product, but in high priced consumer electronics getting the 1.0 of something is problematic…getting the beta is a recipe for disaster.  If it was never really a stable product hyping it hurt them and the entire wearable market. They turned wearable tech a into a punchline for late night talk show monologues. Next time (and I’m sure there will be one) I imagine they will take a much lower profile marketing approach….the first rule of the new Google Glass will be….Don’t talk about Google Glass.  The second rule…DON’T TALK ABOUT GOOGLE GLASS.

Sony Follows Glass

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When Google backed away from Glass last year I was one of many welcoming the move. At the time I argued that my complaint with Glass wasn’t that it wasn’t an interesting technology initiative, rather its implications for privacy and the elitist way it was marketed pigeon holed the tech into a “Glasshole” place which did nobody any good.

This week Sony has announced the sale of the “developer” edition of its version of Glass…..imaginatively called EyeGlasses.  It still has the privacy issue to get around (although the red light indicating camera activity helps address that) but it’s a step in the right direction. Aesthetically the Sony offering is a mess.  The frames are ugly and tethered to a hockey puck sized control unit. That will be a big issue for consumers but not as important to industrial users who already often have to put up with clunky protective eye wear. That’s clearly where Sony is positioning this equipment. although the cute commercials feature end users it makes more sense in an industrial or medical context.

Perhaps more important is the price point. Sony has pitched it at $850 which puts in the the high end of the consumer space and quite affordable in an industrial context. It has some clever augmented reality features like directions and facial recognition so if you meet someone you know who is in your contacts (and you have a picture of them) it will let you have their name. This release is significant because it brings a major another player into the game and in the case of Sony a player in dire need of a big win. They are pitching it at practical use rather than tech snobbery and it’s another step towards the end game.

It’s clear, in my mind, that the big win will be believable augmented then virtual reality. This will be led by gamers and the adult content industry with industrial applications running third place. Sony is well entrenched in the gaming world and it’s likely that a subsequent version of this equipment will have integration with PS4. That would give gamers a heads up display fully integrated with their game experience. Sony is talking about eye movement control for things like scrolling and opening in future editions. If they make that part of their game system navigation we would have  a serious contender. at this price point…or close to this could become a viable mass market game controller which happens to be useful for other applications if you can stand the embarrassment of being seen out in them.

Ding Dong The Glass is Dead

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I like wearables…I think there’s a huge market for tech attached to our bodies which enhances our lives with form and function in harmony…but not Google Glass. Yesterday Google stuck a well deserved stake through the heart of this monster and retired it to the “Moon Shot” division where big ideas go to die.

The writing was on the wall for Glass a while ago when Sergey Brin stopped appearing with Glass at high profile events. In recent years you were more likely to catch him in public without his pants than without Glass…but when he stopped toting Glass recently many Glass watchers drew their own conclusion. The early adopters who shelled out 1,500 bucks (and in some cases had to write essays on why they wanted to be allowed to buy Glass) will be understandably pretty ticked off. Fortunately their disposable income will likely be at a level where they won’t feel the pain…and that speaks in good measure to why Glass failed.

It wasn’t the battery life (which was less than very useful). It wasn’t the generally clunky usability.It wasn’t the fact that it apparently wasn’t really evolving, adding features or uses. It wasn’t the lack of a “killer application” to drive adoption…it was all of the above…and the “squeak-out” factor it caused.

Glass was an elitist, intrusive, ego trip for the arrogant Technorati to wear to show that they knew someone at Google, had more money than sense and were cooler than thou. If your wearable brands your users “Glassholes” you have a major marketing problem. Compare with GoPro…a bit clunky early on, rapidly evolving features, a killer reason to exist (showing off sporting prowess on YouTube) and affordable to pretty much anyone that wanted it. Nobody thinks GoPro users are secretly recording them, or taking pictures or checking up on them online. GoPo cultivates a young, cool slightly crazy vibe and produces organically share-able content. It also has great battery life and my dog could operate it.

Our faces, especially our eyes are intensely personal.  Adding any tech to them is tricky and typically looks weird or threatening.   Any wearable, which engenders mistrust in those around it and contempt for the “Glassholes” who wear it is doomed…and good riddance. Hopefully lesson learned.

Google Glass on Its Way Out?

 

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After two years of popping up at high-profile events sporting Google Glass, the gadget that transforms eyeglasses into spy-movie worthy technology, Google co-founder Sergey Brin sauntered bare-faced into a Silicon Valley red-carpet event on Sunday.

The Googler, who heads up the top-secret lab which developed Glass, left his pair in the car. But he has hardly given up on the product. Brin’s timing was not the best, coming as many developers and early Glass users are losing interest in the much-hyped, $1500 test version of the product: a camera, processor and stamp-sized computer screen mounted to the edge of eyeglass frames. Google itself has pushed back the Glass roll out to the mass market.

While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers are saying. Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official web site include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter. Also, several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.

A Glass funding conglomerate created by Google Ventures and two of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capitalists, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Andreessen Horowitz, quietly deleted its website, routing users to the main Glass site.

Google insists it is committed to Glass, with hundreds of engineers and executives working on it, as well as new fashionista boss Ivy Ross, a former Calvin Klein executive. Tens of thousands use Glass in the pilot consumer program. Glass and wearable devices overall amount to a new technology, as smartphones once were, that will likely take time to evolve into a product that clicks with consumers.

Why do you believe that Google’s Glass hasn’t been adopted widely? Do you believe that there is a large market for these wearable technologies that could become the next emerging technology such as smart phones?

Police Departments Hoping Wearable Technology Will Prevent Another Ferguson

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There was a time, not that long ago, when truck drivers drove for 24hrs straight on a mix of coffee and meth leading to routine mayhem on our roads. Then they introduced ‘the spy in the cab’ and the problem went away almost overnight. Similarly the introduction of police monitoring equipment (essentially a GoPro for each cop) has caused enormous changes.

Suddenly the seemingly intractable problem of inappropriate use of force and the complaints filed against the police for so doing dropped immediately. Use of force by 60% and complaints by 88% respectively. The national media coverage following the killing of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson has given this issue due prominence. The message is clear…if a bad actor knows his bad acts will be recorded and make him answerable for them he will think twice before committing those acts. Even in Missouri a few body-mounted camera systems are being considered, which will likely set the pattern for how wearable technology is used in the police force from now on. Here are some examples of the technology under test or in use:

Digital Ally FirstVU HD Officer-Worn Video System

Digital Ally’s system and others like it are unique because they accommodate the need of police officers exiting their vehicles. Such action often leaves dash-mounted cameras unable to record activity beside or behind the patrol car.

Since its market launch, the efficacy of the FirstVU HD has been complemented and expanded by ‘live streaming’ capabilities, cloud-based storage and access, and the recent introduction of patented VuLink connectivity system, which allows body cameras and multiple in-car video systems to be automatically or manually activated simultaneously.

TASER Axon Flex

Another leading maker of wearable video cameras is Taser. The Axon Flex that sells for $600 lets officers mount the tiny camera on their eyewear, hat, helmet, body or even on the dash of their cruiser.

A collaboration between Taser and Samsung allows the video and audio feed from the camera to be sent to a Samsung media device with a four-inch screen called the Galaxy Player.

Law enforcement agencies have used the Axon Flex-Galaxy Player combination not only for active police work, but also to monitor trainees and help provide better feedback as they develop their policing skills.

GoPro Hero

The company that went public with an IPO back in June makes the Hero line of personal HD cameras, frequently used in extreme sports. Although the GoPro Hero is sold to and used by law enforcement, it is larger than some of its competitors and considered bulky by some.

What some consider a disadvantage, however, could also be an advantage. A chest-mounted GoPro Hero is obvious to anyone a police officer encounters.

Google Glass

Many would argue that Google Glass is a perfect fit for police use. It sees what the officer sees, is small and lightweight, unobtrusive and offers many other benefits including the ability to communicate with various police agencies.

Law enforcement personnel in Dubai, New York, Byron, Georgia and Rialto have made use of Google Glass. Because the device has the potential to be used with a variety of apps that could, for example, scan license plates, many in law enforcement see Glass as one of most attractive options yet.

 

Cool and Cubical

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Google comes out with all kinds of stuff…most of it interesting but occasionally they come up with something which even my jaded eye finds compelling. Their latest addition is cool in exactly the same way Google Glass isn’t. What they have created is a multimedia ‘platform’ which allows the artist to embed video and music on to each side of a virtual cube, each side can be as unique and different as you wish. In the Chrome browser or on an Android device you can rotate the cube in 3D. As each face comes round to your point of view so the sound and images playing on that face at that time become the focus….but each face which you can see something of contributes a little. You can try it here http://nofun.thepresets.com/ just paste that URL into a Chrome browser. This is a techno/trance number from an Oz band and it’s predictably clubby but I think this could go way beyond just something else to project at a rave. This concept allows parallel narrative from six simultaneous perspectives.

Apparently this started as an experiment inspired by Rubik’s cube and as a challenge to see just what could be done with a browser…turns out quite a lot. It’s not a completely new concept..multiple parallel video has been used in things as diverse as the documentary about Woodstock and the TV series 24. What’s different is that the viewer can manipulate and investigate the cube which makes each individual’s perspective unique. Imagine taking a single incident then telling it from six different perhaps opposing perspectives. Now add in maybe virtual reality and it gets even more interesting. Perhaps we could walk through and around a set of multiple cubes each of which is virtually controlled by the viewer. It sounds arty and maybe a bit trippy…and maybe it is…but it might also be a rather cool new way to experiment with how we express our perspectives through art and Google deserves credit for making that available to anyone with enough imagination and code skills to make it happen

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.