Google Glass is now “unofficially officially” out in the wild, early reviews are in, and they’re not spectacular. I’ve been a Glass skeptic from the start, but now I’m just going to come right out and say it: If the developer version is at all an accurate representation of what Glass will look like as a finished product, it's going to fail.
No One Likes To Wear Glasses
If people liked wearing glasses, we wouldn’t live in a world where many people opt to wear contacts. I actually don’t like wearing contacts (my eyes are sensitive) and because my insurance covers the cost of buying glasses I dutifully trot in, excited by the prospect that this time, I’m going to find the perfect pair.
An unboxing and overview of what's in the box with Google Glass, a moonshot project that might just be crazy enough to catch on. I speak from experience: No matter how well they’re fitted, glasses slip. They pinch. They’re easy to forget. They cause headaches. They’re inconvenient when they’re on and even more so when we need to take them off. Put simply, glasses are a hassle and despite my best intentions I give up on wearing them after only a couple months.
No matter your level of respect for Google, it won’t have solved these problems. If anything, they’re only going to be exacerbated by the fact that Glass will need to fit perfectly in order to work perfectly. Also by the fact that people who like to wear glasses can't currently wear Glass, because it doesn't work with... glasses!
Whether we like wearing glasses or not, we definitely don’t like wearing ugly glasses and Google Glass is nothing if not ugly. (Take a look at any picture that doesn’t feature a professional model at a professional photo shoot and tell me I’m wrong.)
Those of us who are forced to wear corrective glasses are pretty particular about what we’ll wear, and Google says we can have any design we like as long as it’s ugly.
Google Glass Is Already A Parody Of Itself
The iPad elicited pre-release chuckles because we’re all children and we think feminine hygiene products are hilarious. Apple put an end to our juvenile japes by releasing a product that worked well. More important, perhaps, the iPad was announced and then it was released and reviewed as a finished product.
As a result, we were able to walk into a store, buy one and draw our own conclusions. And we did. Millions of times, collectively.
Not so with Google Glass. The devices are out there, yes, but most of us will never know someone who owns a pre-release pair. Many of us already understand that wearing prescription glasses kind of sucks, and even if we have no real idea what it’s like to meld a tiny screen to that experience, adding to bad doesn’t often make good.
This means we’ll spend the next several months forming our opinions based on preconceived notions, reviews, word-of-mouth and, yes, Saturday Night Live skits.
The Reviews Have Been Terrible
Whether it’s battery life, how well they function, the price to value ratio, or build quality, no one seems to have much nice to say about Google Glass in its current form. (ReadWrite's Taylor Hatmaker is one exception.) You might retort that it’s unfair to review a beta product, but Google could have released Glass alongside an NDA or an embargo, and it didn’t do that. It unconditionally put the “future of tech” in the hands of any journalist who was willing to shell out $1500 and hoped for the best.
Is it possible that Google will completely overhaul their flagship next-generation mobile computer in an effort to address these issues? Sure it is. I think it’s unlikely, but it’s possible. Does it matter? Is “Joe Average” going to spend his money on a first-of-its-kind product that was savaged in early reviews? Not likely.
Word-Of-Mouth Has Been Terrible
Glasshole. It’s not terribly clever — okay, it's actually sort of clever — but it caught on. And it makes a strong and succinct point that if you wear these, you’re kind of a dick. This isn’t a jab at the product, it’s a commentary about the person wearing the product. If you’re wearing them, that person is you.
That’s the kiss of death for any device, let alone an expensive product that also happens to be getting so-so reviews at best. (Maybe Glass won’t be expensive once it's actually released. But Google is cultivating the idea that the device will be expensive by keeping silent about the eventual price.)
Live from New York: Google Glass Is Terrible!
If Glass were well-reviewed, I’d leave this alone. The problem isn’t that Saturday Night Live is making fun of a new tech product; they do that all the time. The problem is that Saturday Night live is parodying a product and it’s hard to tell that it’s a parody. I’ve seen videos of people wearing Glass and they’re experiencing all the issues that Fred Armisen sends up in his sketch.
The joke is that his character is going out of the way to seem enthusiastic about Glass despite all the glitches, and therein lies the difference between parody and reality: Most of the “real” reviewers seem to be just as confounded by things like poor speech recognition, but far from being enthusiastic, they seem mostly disappointed that “the future” is so wonky.
Google needs an army of disciples who will evangelize despite flaws, and thus far, it seems like they’ve just got Robert Scoble. (This is a good time, I think, to bring up my point about professional models again.)
Google needs to get out in front of the impression that Glass doesn’t work well, and it has yet to do so.
Wear No Evil
Add to all that my ongoing concerns about wearer discomfort, the potential for long-term negative impacts on our vision, inevitable privacy issues, and the likelihood that businesses will ban the use of Google Glass outright.
Maybe Google is giving us a preview of the future. Maybe we should all be excited that Google is willing push the envelope by trying something new.
For now, though, maybe we should all come to terms with the idea that Google is facing a failure of epic proportions.
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- Why Google Glass Is Way More Important Than Any Smartwatch
- Why Google Glass Needs A Style Infusion
Lead image via Taylor Hatmaker