Ugly tech will never work

Google_Glass_with_frameLast night, news broke that Google was halting, indefinitely, sales on its Google Glass product.

Google Glass was heralded as the start of a new era in wearable tech, with many in the events industry vocally throwing their support behind it in the hope it would revolutionise how we do business.

But the hype quickly gave way to derision from the press and the public once it was released. As someone who had the opportunity to test it out last year (courtesy of the folks at ASP), I can say that the Glass was cumbersome and awkward to wear, slow to get a feel for, the tiny screen distracting in conversations  – and even less appealing once you caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror.

There should be no doubt that the way this beta experiment of Glass used its technology – voice activation and recognition, teeny tiny camera, etc – opened up a world of potential.

But the device’s habit of making wearers look like, in plain words, complete idiots, meant that Glass’ success was always going to be an uphill battle.

Despite fashion brands like Diane Von Furstenburg and Yves Saint Laurent jumping on the bandwagon, Glass in its current form was never going to work. And it’s, at least in part, because it was ugly. No one, not even the geekiest chic of us, can rock a metal unibrow that obscures half your right eyeball.

Our author tries (unsuccessfully) to pull off the Glass.

Our author tries (unsuccessfully) to pull off the Glass.

We’ve seen it often, especially when it comes to wearable tech. My boyfriend bought what surely must be the ugliest smartwatch in production, the “Pebble”. He loved it for about five minutes before realising its bulk and inexpensive feel quickly cramped his style. (Bright side: we did get a £30 profit reselling it on eBay.)

Apple is great at making their tech both innovative and beautiful. They famously recruited former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to helm the upcoming iWatch, and the result is a piece of wearable technology that can integrate easily into anyone’s life and wardrobe.

If Google wants to relaunch Glass in the future (and anything that gets moved into a “blue sky division” always rings alarm bells), it will have to commit to making the product something people actually aren’t ashamed to wear.

 “It didn’t feel like it was answering a market need” – Event experts weigh in

“The shutting down of the Google Glass Explorer Programme has made big news and for some reason the media think that’s the end of Glass. I see Google’s Glass experiment as just that: up until now a large and public scale experiment that has given Google a significant amount of intelligence in the wearable tech field, learnings they will already be applying to iterate current and future products as we speak. I don’t see this as the end of Glass at all; in fact, I expect a relatively short hiatus before Glass returns to our world in more universally applicable forms.” –Wayne Morris, general manager, EMEA for Guidebook 

“It’s certainly not a surprise [that it’s been halted]. Google isn’t interested in financing it anymore. What they wanted to do was to demonstrate that they were trying to do some cutting edge stuff, which is what they’ve done. I think that uptake has been very slow because people don’t really know what they can do with it. The actual Glass itself is pretty temperamental at the best of times, so I think it was inevitable – it has had quite a lot of bad press, mainly from the intrusiveness of it. It’s very slow in day-to-day stuff, very clunky, relatively inefficient, but there’s a whole load of other suppliers out there who will pick up the running.

“It is around to stay – it won’t necessarily be in the Glass format, but certainly wearables like that. You only have to look at CES, the amount of wearables that there were there. The excitement is still there. It was nice to show tech people how life might be and try to change that mind-set. You can’t change that mind-set overnight. –Nolan O’Connor, chief marketing officer, ASP

“It’s always a shame to see an innovative product, and all the effort that has gone into it, go to waste. Google Glass was an interesting initiative, though it didn’t feel like it was truly answering a market need. Google launched a developer programme early on that seemed to attract individual techies, but not many businesses jumped on board with marketable ideas. Perhaps that should have been an indication that the product would be short-lived. In the event technology space, we couldn’t find a real use for Glass – it just doesn’t fit in the natural behaviour of a visitor. The event space is a great test bed for new ideas – it’s like a micro-cosm of the ‘open world’ – but with controlled parameters. If something doesn’t work within an exhibition context, it’s even less likely to work in real life.” –Stephane Doutriaux, founder and CEO, Poken

Have your say about Google Glass – email or tweet Emma Hudson

One comment

  1. Typical non tech person giving props to Apple. Apple have released scores of unattractive products in the 38 years since the Apple 1….that’s right Apple existed before the Ipod….shock horror. Google on the other hand have been making hardware for 3 years!! Also Google Never officially released Google glass, it has only been available as part of an Alpha & Beta phase…which clearly makes them “committed to making the product something people actually aren’t ashamed to wear.”


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