Investigating Google Glass Basecamp: Our Verdict? Very Glassy!

MEC@Google – Grasping Google Glass

Google-glass GGB

As part of MEC Google Week we got to head down to Google Glass Basecamp to learn more about the product and literally – get our glass on.

Google Glass basecamp is strategically located in the super trendy and up and coming Kings Cross. By their own admission the current Google Glass product is an early prototype, so the half built nature of the surrounding landscape served a fitting backdrop.

I’ll admit to initially being fairly cynical about glass as a product. Perhaps working in social media has made me learn stark lessons about not believing the hype – witnessing highly acclaimed products be here today…and gone tomorrow, differentiating between fads and sustainable trends, and most importantly appreciating the importance of new digital products and services answering a need or playing a very specific role with an individual’s (very busy and cluttered) digital ecosystem.

We started off with an introduction by Matt Bush, Head of Performance at Google. The argument that we waste 62 minutes per day taking our phone in and out of our pockets I found less convincing (as lets be fair, I waste more than that on the showbiz column of the Daily Mail) but what did start to sway my favour were the examples of how people and companies were using this to add value, even to the extremities of saving lives. The fire brigade was a very compelling example, how using Google Glass they could conjure up a schematic of different car designs to figure the best place to cut the vehicle to rescue car crash  victims, a supermarket chain who wanted to use the device to scan products for home-delivery when packing the shopping – saving them 3 seconds per item. This is where we literally start to see the obvious benefits of technology being physically removed from our hands.

Now it was time to get to grips with Glass:

  • What was really compelling was how the product is firmly rooted in utility rather than just entertainment – this to me is a compelling factor to why the product has a future. When I asked our Google Glass Ambassador what his favourite app was he said turn by turn directions which he uses because he cycles everywhere.
  • Another impressive app was one that can record the spoken word and convert into written test on the glass screen – you can already see the impact this could have on the deaf community.
  • The product is actually comfortable to wear. This is really important as we can take learning’s from the fashion industry that ultimately anything clunky, cumbersome or uncomfortable gets relegated to ‘special occasions’
  • Whilst I wouldn’t say the product is fully intuitive (yet) it is easy to use – swipe forward to scroll, tap to select, swipe down to reset, and most instructions are voice activated ‘Ok Glass’ being the 2014 equivalent to ‘Thunderbird’s are go’.
  • It made me appreciate what I now thought was necessary or basic in a device – photography, video, map and search functionality. Check.

However in some ways, it still is a prototype:

  • It was difficult to keep focusing your eyes on one very small area of the screen – our Google Glass Ambassador actually recommends for people who buy Google Glass to build up their hours wearing it gradually – in today’s society we aren’t actually used to looking up, but in fact looking down to a device.
  • Somehow I’d feel relatively exposed wearing the most expensive thing in my handbag on my face.
  • The look and feel (thought it has evolved hugely) still doesn’t quite feel totally aesthetically pleasing – we can’t underplay the importance of narcissism, fashion and social acceptance in relation to adoption.
  • Perhaps most alarmingly, the product doesn’t have the capability to take a selfie – could wearable’s see the death of the selfie and a concentration on our surroundings?

What was undeniable though the whole experience was just bloody cool, and the biggest and most impressive thing Google Glass holds in those frames is potential.

With Google Glass, like any piece of wearable tech, it will burst into the mainstream when it actually meets a specific need that isn’t already being supplied.  At the moment my phone does all the functionality of Google Glass (admittedly in a less superior manner) and a lot of the apps work in conjunction with phones.

Above everything, what impressed me the most is Google’s approach to the development of this piece of tech. ‘We don’t actually really want people to buy it’ says the Google Glass Ambassador to me. Seems a strange statement, but actually it makes sense. This is a prototype product, in no means a finished article, so actually the worst thing that could happen is people spend £1,000 on a product, feel disillusioned, which then leads to abandonment. What Google Glass Basecamp actually is, is a well thought out consumer research facility. Anyone can make an appointment to sample glass, feedback, give products ideas which all contribute towards the evolution of this product. It’s a fantastic learn – respond – test cycle.

They admit they don’t yet know the future of glass and where it may lead, and that’s what makes this product so exciting. Overall it’s a really mature way to start integrating a game-changing product quite early into market – some would even call it glassy.

#mecgoogle #googleglass #wearabletech