March 2, 2013

Google Glass, Oakley Goggles, & Wearable Computers

Hope everyone's having a great weekend!

We've been hearing a lot lately about Google Glass, Google's new product that merges the wear-ability of glasses and the mobile computer concept of an IPhone. The technology here is pretty incredible, and there has been a lot of buzz over this product, but I'm curious - is this product really practical?

Google Glass commercial

I did a little research and found out a bit more about Google Glass, including its functions and design. I had seen the video in marketing class but, as one student pointed out, the video doesn't actually show the glasses. This is interesting because the glasses look pretty funky. They don't contain actual eyeglasses and instead are composed only of a glasses frame, with one side containing a thicker, colored portion housing all of the technology. In front, where the glass would normally go, is one small square glass screen.

Google did a great job creating their video ad - it makes the glasses look innovative, efficient, and fun. Plus, the glasses can surf the Internet, record a video, take a picture, text, find directions, and post to Facebook, all by simply speaking to it. That sounds pretty cool! However, the glasses are also pretty expensive (prospective buyers had to enter a contest and pay $1,500) and I think that many interested customers will shy aware due to the design.

As I was researching, I found several competitors to Google Glass, including these Vuzix Smart Glasses by Andriod, set to premiere this year. These glasses perform essentially the same functions as Google Glass but are designed without the entire glasses frame. Instead they only use the piece housing the technology and the glass frame, like a take on a phone headset or Bluetooth. I think Vuzix Smart Glasses look nicer than Google Glass, but is still a little odd.

IBM commercial

I was very surprised to find that IBM had previously premiered this exact technology years ago! It looked exactly like Android's version and completed similar functions. I found the preceding video advertisement online and, after looking into this, I found that IBM's model failed for a couple reasons - 1) the voice recognition software was not great, and 2) users did not like that everyone could hear them speaking to the product.

I find this interesting because, for one, IBM's video shows the complications of their voice recognition software. To me, that means this advertisement, and the product itself, wasn't very good. Also, when I first heard of Google Glass, I thought about the fact that everyone can hear what you're doing. While this may not be a problem for some people, I certainly don't like that feature (I hate using Siri on my IPhone while in public). Then again people walk around talking to their Bluetooth all the time.

Oakley Airwave Goggles

Last but not least, the ski industry is jumping on the wearable computer bandwagon. or, Oakley is at least. The company recently introduced its Airwave Goggles, which uses the same technology as the glasses but in a ski goggle. The design is the same (except partially covered by the goggle) and comes with a thick arm band with large buttons that seem easy to use while wearing ski gloves. It seems less focused on using voice recognition and instead marketers are pushing the wearable computer functions (which is still very cool).

I think this product looks much better and its technology is very much applicable to skiers. These goggles can track the air time and speed, and can locate your friends. Plus, the price is much cheaper at about $600. I think that the video, however, is a bit lacking. It has some incredible views which will appeal to hardcore skiers & snowboarders, and it clearly explains the functions of the goggles, but I think it's a little long without adding much.

So okay, this wearable computer technology is uber exciting. But, it's obviously expensive and some of the designs aren't very aesthetically pleasing. I'm curious to see if these products will sell and, I think that successful sales will be hugely dependent on how they're marketed.

Look for a post soon about the outcome of Friday's speech and creativity competition at SUNY Plattsburgh (spoiler alert - we won!). As always, email with questions!

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