Google Glass is coming, but will the world see through—and embrace—it’s quirkiness? Early explorers, and the people they come in contact with, are already forming opinions. But whether they love it or hate it may be beside the point if Glass isn’t seen as aesthetically admissible by the mainstream. Most imaginations probably envision Sheldon and friends more than Rachel and Friends as the types most likely to sport Glass (in public). But by resting Glass on the ears and noses of the non-nerdy in it’s marketing, Google has done it’s best to make the screen-on-a-frame look as socially acceptable as possible. Advertisers, however, cannot be trusted without verification because they have an agenda.
Glass is functional—it was designed to be useful. But will the fashion, not merely the utility, make or break wearable technologies like Google Glass? To make a product that will be worn worldwide, Google and other companies must possess a more complete understanding of how IT relates to a person’s ID. In the battle of apps versus appearance, which matters more?
I’ve asked a sizable group of technology entrepreneurs and executives for their opinion on the matter and their answers might surprise you. Since dorky seemed to be the prevailing conclusion among this group, lets start there.
The Dorky Point of View
Google itself defines dorky as a dull stupid fatuous (silly and pointless) person. In contrast, Google defines the word cool as fashionably attractive or impressive. With that in mind, are people outfitted in Google Glass oblivious, lacking judgement and common sense—or are they hip and in style?
As a startup founder and co-creator of the FlameStower, Andrew Byrnes admits that the line between cool and dorky is permanently blurred. That said, he thinks, “Google Glass is amazing tech… but its insanely dorky! Each time I see someone wearing Glass, it looks like they’re staring at a computer monitor—lazy eye, dropped jaw—even picking their nose because they’re distracted.” That certainly seems to qualify as oblivious.
Alex Neskin, CTO and founder of Petcube, describes Glass-wearers as just plain awkward: “All the face-touching, nodding and loud conversations with Glass add plenty of awkwardness points to the device.”
“Glass is definitely a little dorky, but I think it has a future,” adds Hursh Agrawal, co-founder of Branch and Potluck. Agrawal appears to question whether the benefits of Glass are enough to drive mainstream adoption at this point: “I’m just not sure they have enough utility at the moment to warrant wearing them on the street.”
As a guy who knows a thing or two about creating stylish accessories, Greg Petersen, co-creator of the MOS (Magnetic Organization System), says, “I would definitely love to have the product and have a screen constantly in view. That being said, I would wear them knowing that I look dorky and willing to live with those consequences.”
Some people take the current iteration of Glass at face value: merely a starting point. “I don’t think the mainstream version of Google Glass will look anything like it does now. I have no doubt that wearable computing is going to be a mainstream thing in the future,” declares Brenden Mulligan, founder of Cluster, before getting a bit harsher. “I wouldn’t wear Glass because I think people wearing it look like idiots, but I look forward to a day when it’s not such a ridiculous looking device. And that day will be here sooner than we think.”
AUUG founder Joshua Young seems to agree. “Google glass may be considered dorky now, but it won’t be for long. Augmented reality glasses will eventually be inconspicuous and available in any style. Current challenges to such eye wear are the social intrusion of surveillance and distraction, as well as battery life and general clunkiness. Technical limitations aside, the technology and social etiquette will shift to find a compromise for acceptable use.”
Thinking along the lines that Glass will start out dorky and improve in social adoption over time seems to be a popular view shared by Thejo Kote, CEO of Automatic. He relates to Young and Mulligan, “In it’s current form factor, Google Glass is more dorky than cool. I can see that changing over time as the capabilities of Glass get miniaturized into a smaller form factor.”
Acknowledging that Glass has currently gone to the nerds, Good.co CEO Samar Birwadker says, “Gadgets become world-beating technology when they enable a user to do what s/he already wants to do, but in a more efficient, perhaps even gratuitous manner. For a new technology to cross the chasm, what’s needed is that crazed, illogical set of early adopters that will defend their purchase decision tooth and nail and impact the product’s evolution. I think Google Glass has more than it’s share of fans/nerds who will not rest until it becomes cool someday.” Robert Scoble, anyone?
The Cool Point of View
Of all the tech entrepreneurs and execs I spoke with about Glass, only three came out and said it was cool. Mark Ghermezianis, CEO of Appboy, put it like this: “To the extent that Google Glass holds the promise of granting your vision access to the sum total of human knowledge, it’s awesome.” I guess if you think Glass is awesome you aren’t worried about getting a glare.
If desire is a sign of coolness, Ivalio Jordanov, co-founder, 23snaps, certainly likes Glass. He says it’s, “Dorky. Very dorky. Why? Because I can’t get my hands on a pair… it’s definitely cool.”
The third brave soul in the “Glass is cool” camp is Saurin Shah, co-founder of Sift, who asserts, “Google glass is cool. In one of favorite animes (Appleseed), people wore a Google Glass like device called a Connexus. Although the Connexus was ultimately used to mind-control people, it looked very cool! A few years later, Google introduces its version of the Connexus. It’s just as cool now as it was in the anime. Now we need the Google Giant Robot…”
To some, the only thing that matters is the utility. “It’s not about cool or dorky,” says Filippo Yacob, Managing Director and founder of Primo.io. “It’s about how useful the application of this technology can be to someone within a given context. My normal glasses are dorky, but I use them because without them I can’t see.” As an aside, he speaks to the issue of more connectivity, “Personally I like to break from being connected in my every day life, I prefer my devices to stay in my pocket as opposed to on my face or wrist… but again, it depends on what I’m doing.”
Like Yacob, Alex Cabrera, co-founder of Marquee, agrees that, “It’s not so much a question of them being cool or dorky.” To him it is also more about the applications and the utility of the device. “It’s inevitable that devices which bring augmented reality to the mainstream are going to be with us,” says Alex, who believes devices like Glass will become accepted social norms. “We’ve seen this with smartphones—how it’s almost acceptable to stop a conversation midstream to check a notification; but smartphones can be discrete, you can put them away. I don’t think we start answering the social questions until it’s not obvious someone is wearing a pair.”
“I think it’s both,” maintains Horia Cernusca, co-founder and CEO of Swipe. “It’s definitely something you’ve seen in movies and always thought ‘this would be amazinnng.’ I’m not so sure I’d wear it constantly, at this point, mainly because I’d always have to talk to it which could be awkward in public. I can see it being useful while driving, while at work, or while traveling.”
On the other hand, Doorbot inventor James Siminoff things it’s neither: “Google glass does an awesome job riding the line between “cool” and “dorky”. It is an incredibly innovative product that bridges the gap between technology and our daily lives.” He’s also inspired by Glass. “Google’s willingness to take risks when innovating new products is inspirational to us as we also continue to push the boundaries of technology.”
Finally, Henry Villiers, CEO of WeStore, thinks its too early to say but points out, “Google glass aims to add subtle, informative value to your inner world, but when you put a pair on, you become a beacon of attention to the outside world, which kind of defeats the point.”
So is Google Glass dorky or cool? After reading through these responses, I have come to the personal conclusion that Glass is absolutely, positively dorky—for now. I agree with those who believe Glass and/or similar wearable products will become the social norm in the future. Maybe we can leave it like this, for now: Glass is dorky—but perhaps in a cool way (or is it cool in a dorky way)? What do you think?