Google has officially taken the wraps off its Augmented Reality Glasses effort, dubbed 'Project Glass.'
If you haven't watched the concept video, you should, as it is well done, and provides a clear set of narratives that are both plausible and value-add to one's daily life. Nick Bilton of New York Times has an excellent write-up on it HERE.
When I think about a Google effort like this, four thoughts come to mind. One is kudos to Google for thinking outside of the box.
Even better, as opposed to (metaphorically speaking) assembling a bunch of disparate 'chicken parts,' and assuming that consumers can crystallize what the living, breathing chicken looks like, how it breathes and and how it manifests as a life form, they are actually SHOWING you. Good job!
I want these guys to succeed, and am in no small part motivated by a personal liking and professional respect for Steve Lee, one of the co-creators of the effort, and a good friend and former business partner.
Two, I can see lots of logical applications for this type of device that are non-obtrusive and value-add (SEE '3D Glasses:Virtual Reality, Meet the iPhone').
For example, imagine socially-powered or professionally curated walking tours? Wouldn't Yelp, Time Out, Foursquare or Fodors want to be all over that?
Heck, it even passes my 'Porn and Parody' litmus test.
What is that? Simply, if a new technology is easily and memorably mocked AND has logical use cases that the adult industry would be interested in, then it has a chance of succeeding in the market.
Well, in about two seconds of watching the video, I could come up with multiple NSFW-related applications. The porn industry, after all, is the cockroach of innovation. Every industry that has succeeded in tech (DVDs, Internet, Mobile, Cable TV) has seen the porn industry finds its niche within it. They are the consummate early adopters.
Similarly, watching the video, I was instantly imagining the parody video where we find out just how disturbed the A/R glass wearer is, as he calls upon deeply disturbing contexts that only he can see, or worse, hackers take over his overlay feed, and disrupt his day with snarky comments or offensive data.
Is a Project, a Product, or a Platform?
Three, though, is that with all things Google, I ask first if this is a Project, a Product, or a Platform (SEE: Lessons learned from Google Buzz).
Projects are like concept cars. Cool, but the likelihood of yielding real products is unknown, and as a consumer, I am done caring until Google is committed.
After all, we have seen many such projects be launched, then abandoned by Google. Buzz, Wave and App Inventor are a few recent ones that come to mind.
(You can reach your own conclusions from the fact that they are calling this ''Project' Glass, although I am hopeful that this time is different).
Products, by contrast, take precision, execution, distribution channels, sales training, end-to-endness, and generally speaking, are outside the ken of what Google has done well to date.
That stated, I believe that this is exactly the category where Google should take the lead in committing to and delivering a best of breed product. They are the only ones that can cultivate it and sell it successfully, as it is a wholly new concept.
Platforms imply courting and cultivating software developers, and while this project is built on Android, what this means in terms of depth of focused support remains to be seen. As a developer, I would wait and see big-time how the uptick is with this as a product -- before committing to it as a platform.
In the real world, how does it work?
Four is the question of how all of this works in practice, in the real world, given the need of such a device to be lightweight and have reasonable battery power, but not sacrifice on functionality.
Here, I am guessing that such a device is actually a peripheral that communicates via bluetooth to your Android powered phone; using it as a 'middle-tier' between your eye-line and the cloud, thus elevating the smart phone to personal hub.
That, in itself, would be a very Apple-like embrace of the totality of the solution domain, over the loosely, and often poorly, coupled that one associates with Google offerings.
- 3D Glasses: Virtual Reality, Meet the iPhone (O'Reilly)
- Google Buzz: Project, Product or Platform? (O'Reilly)
- Don't Confuse a bunch of Chicken Parts for a Chicken