Six months ago today, I hopped an early morning flight to San Francisco and headed to Google’s campus to become a Google Glass Explorer.
I arrived more with a sense of curiosity than enthusiasm, and had even emailed Danny Sullivan — my boss and Marketing Land’s Founding Editor — a week or two earlier to say, you know, I wasn’t really thrilled about getting Glass and wasn’t sure I wanted to be the guinea pig that starts to learn what Glass is, how it works and what our readers would need to know about it in their roles as professional marketers.
Now that it’s been six months, I’d like to reopen that diary with thoughts on Glass itself, plus the latest on what marketers need to know for its public launch next year.
Google Glass: Hits & Misses
Let me get this out of the way first: After my initial lukewarm reaction to having Glass, I’ve come to love the device. I’m not Google’s ideal user and I don’t get as much out of Glass as others do (because I don’t use all of Google’s products heavily), but I believe Glass makes my life better in a number of ways. For me, the hits far outweigh the misses, and I’m excited about the potential that Glass has going forward.
Hit #1: Immediate News & Information
I’m an information/communication junkie. I enjoy the CNN and Watchup apps for getting national news videos sent to my Glass. I’m not an active investor, but I enjoy the daily Fidelity app alert at 1:05 pm PT that tells me if the major markets were up or down.
My job demands that I know what’s going on as soon as possible and be able to communicate it to others. For work purposes, I use the Marketing Land Glass app to know when our staff has posted a new article. I’ve been able to use the Zapier service to have RSS feeds sent to Glass, letting me follow what’s happening in the marketing/tech industry.
The fact that I can get all this news and information sent to me without having to grab my phone, open an app, wait for the new content to load, etc., is great. And that I can get it hands-free while I’m walking through an airport or a convention hall? Perfect.
Hit #2: Social Connectivity
Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all have Google Glass apps. They’re limited in functionality and don’t always work as planned, but I love being able to get tweets from the accounts that I follow sent to my Glass. I love being able to speak a reply to those tweets, too. (Yes, if you’ve had a conversation with me on Twitter recently, there’s a chance I was speaking my replies to you via the Glass app.)
Being able to use Twitter, or share photos to Google+ or Facebook, hands-free when I’m on the go is a huge hit for me.
Hit #3: Google Now
I live in a rural area, so Google Now — the predictive search product that offers information without having to search for it — doesn’t always offer me much value. But when I travel, Glass is a completely different device. Being able to get instant restaurant suggestions or information about nearby attractions is a big hit. Ditto for getting weather information and live score updates about my favorite sports teams.
Hit #4: Maps & Navigation
The maps and navigation tools on Glass are really great. Again, I primarily only use them when traveling, but in a recent simultaneous comparison, Google’s navigation through Glass was more accurate than its navigation via the Google Maps iPhone app. (I have no idea how or why.)
Despite what you may have heard, Glass is perfectly safe to wear while driving, in my opinion. The navigation goes into standby mode and only updates when it has to, speaking the next step (“Turn left in 500 feet”) while the map illuminates for about 3-4 seconds before it turns off again. I found this much safer than looking down at my iPhone.
There are many other “hits,” but in the interest of keeping this at article-length, not book-length, I’ll move on to some “misses.”
Miss #1: Battery Life
This hasn’t changed much since I wrote 14 Things Google Glass Needs back in June as part of this Google Glass Diary series. Battery life seems to be a bit better when I’m not using Glass heavily, but shooting video with Glass is still a colossal power drain.
Miss #2: Timeline Navigation
As I connect more apps to Glass, I get more “cards” in my timeline — cards from CNN, Watchup, Twitter, etc. They appear in chronological order and finding an old card (to rewatch a CNN story, for example) is difficult.
Miss #3: Audio Quality
It’s always been difficult to hear the bone-conducting audio in loud environments. I’m optimistic that the ear bud in Glass 2.0 will make that better.
Miss #4: Overall Lack of Apps
This is slowly getting better, but there’s still an overall lack of apps. Many are waiting for Google to replace the current Mirror API with the Glass Developer Kit (GDK). Others, like Foursquare, have said they’ll wait to see how popular Glass becomes before doing an app. Still others are surely turned off by the fact that Google won’t let developers charge for apps or include ads in them right now. I’m sure that’ll eventually change, but it’s got to be a deterrent in the meantime.
Google has said there’ll be a full-fledged Glass app store by next year, so I have to assume those virtual store shelves won’t be empty. Glass needs more apps.
What Marketers Need To Know About Google Glass Today
Here’s a list of facts, opinions and predictions that I think marketers and brands should keep in mind as we get closer to Google Glass’ release next year:
Release date: To be announced. Google has said Glass will be released for public sale in 2014, nothing more specific.
Release area: Glass may only be sold in the US at first. Google reps have said it may be years before Glass reaches Europe.
Cost: Unknown. In response to rumors, Google has said Glass won’t cost $299.
Userbase: Glass currently has about 10,000 “Explorers” — the group of people that are beta testing and giving Google feedback. That group is currently expanding to as many as 40,000 people via invitations.
Ads on Glass: Currently non-existent, but there are numerous ways this could happen from paid “cards” as part of Google Now (i.e., here’s a local restaurant discount available today) or as paid search results when people use the “Google” search command. Google also owns a pay-per-gaze patent that reveals other ad-related possibilities, though the company says it has no plans to use it. (Plans can change, of course.)
Marketing Opportunities on Glass: There are many. Glass offers most of the same features of a smartphone, so any mobile marketing opportunity you can think of now can probably also apply to Glass:
- Publishing: Glass is a great information tool, in my opinion. That’s an opportunity for any marketer or brand in the business of creating content.
- Retail: Just as consumers use their smartphones to compare products (i.e., showrooming) and make purchases, the same can happen via Glass. Several companies, including Mastercard and Intuit, are developing “pay with Glass” apps.
- Email and Text Messaging: Glass supports both, so there are two more opportunities for connecting with prospects and customers.
One exception right now is Social. The social apps for Glass are currently all about content creation and sharing (typically by taking a photo and pushing it out to social networks).
They don’t support a high-level of social content consumption — i.e., I can’t see my Facebook News Feed or the Google+ stream in Glass. I can see tweets, but only from accounts that I follow and only when they mention my @mattmcgee username.
The Future of Google Glass
I gave a somewhat lengthy response when asked about this during the Google Glass session at SMX East. The Cliff’s Notes version would go like this:
1. Google is going to do a lot of education before Glass goes on sale. This’ll probably include in-person events, TV commercials (Super Bowl anyone?) and much more.
2. Glass won’t sell like gangbusters when it launches. We’re in the early days of wearable tech/computers. Glass is like the cell phones of old that had the whole world asking, Why would I ever want to carry a phone around with me everywhere I go? It took many years for cell phones to get accepted; I expect it’ll take Glass, other head-mounted devices and smart watches the same.
3. Glass will eventually find its audience and grow a passionate user base.
I do believe that wearable computing is going to happen, no matter how much kicking and screaming the public does now. Think back to the kicking and screaming in the 1980s and early 1990s about cell phones. People adapt. Technology improves. Google Glass is here to stay, but it’ll probably take a while for that to become obvious.