Are We Ready to Break the (Google) Glass Ceiling?

Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 by Print This Post Print This Post

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To be blunt, no. Well what I mean is, I don’t think Google Glass, the search giant’s new ‘smart glasses’ device, will take the world by storm. Yet.

Don’t get me wrong, having techy tendencies means I do get excited by new gadgetry and Google Glass is no different. I think the ability to take photos and videos handsfree, directly from your viewpoint, is amazing and other features such as directions will be really useful. I am really excited about what it could be, but could is the operative word here.

Recently, the first reviews of the device came in after the ‘Explorers’ were sent the product to test, and some of them confirmed my suspicions – the device is intriguing, but has a number of drawbacks at this early stage.

Without even getting into bugs and minor tweaks, there are a few functionalities that aren’t there that perhaps could be. Full augmented reality – where the device would actually respond to its surroundings and place interactive objects in your vision – does not appear to be an actual reality with Google Glass. Instead it provides information in cards at the top-right of your vision, powered by apps, that you control with voice commands. According to Robert Scoble and Thomas Somers in their SoundClound review, having full integrated augmentation that would react to your surroundings and situation is something that could really push the device to the next level – although they also argue that perhaps too much interruption would turn some users off. Anyway, the device is quite different from how it was first promoted a year ago in the ‘One day…’ video where it was supposed to notify you of things like public transport updates when it recognised you were near a station. But that was more of an ‘idea’ video than anything.

It also has no internet connectivity of its own – it has to be paired to a mobile device via Bluetooth before you can use any of the connectivity applications. So in actual fact, it’s simply a fancy Bluetooth headpiece. I think it would be more exciting if the device had Wi-Fi and/or 4G built-in.

And then we have the apps. At the moment, the only (non-Google) app you can download is the New York Times app. In time, more will come, and I’m sure developers will jump at the chance to create applications for a whole new device. But apparently developers won’t actually be able to charge for Glass apps or be allowed to have advertising within their apps, so at this stage it’s difficult to see why developers would want to move into the Glass market if there’s no verifiable way of making money from it. Especially seeing as there are only a handful of users at the moment anyway.

Maybe all of this functionality is yet to come, though, and I should probably give Google some credit as the device is only really in ‘beta’ mode at this stage.

However, what does this first taste of Glass mean for SEO and paid search? The voice-controlled search function at the moment only shows you a one-result ‘card’, similar to the Knowledge Graph, as far as I can tell. If there are no plans to offer a scrollable page of search results, then surely this will make SEO an impossible task? If there is only one spot to fight for, it’s hard to see hundreds and thousands of companies striving to get there by traditional SEO methods. And how will paid search ads work? With a dramatically smaller space to work with, it would appear the Google Glass SERP could throw search engine marketing into disarray.

But this is a problem we’d have to deal with only once Glass, or other wearable technology like it, becomes widely adopted. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a while off yet. In terms of what’s holding Glass back, I haven’t even touched on the issues of privacy, the ‘invasion’ of technology and just how weird you’d look wearing a pair as you go about your day…

Google Glass – it’s exciting, it’s the future (maybe), but just not for a while yet.

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3 Responses to “Are We Ready to Break the (Google) Glass Ceiling?”

  1. David says:

    Agree that it is a long way away but google has the patience and the investment capabilities and you can envision how they are thinking about this combined with local,”proactive” seach capabilities and understanding what you are actually looking at during any given moment which might make this incredibly compelling over time… eventually we might all be wearing google powered glasses…

  2. Louise Vine says:

    I agree, I just think it will take a while yet. And I think majority-wide adoption would take some time seeing as the device involves the user WEARING it on their face – a whole different ball game compared to carrying a smartphone in your pocket.

  3. When Apple came out with the App store for the iPhone there was skepticism on whether developers would, well.. develop.

    Google Glass has a few additional challenges, like price and scale, by contrast Apple already had a large customer pool to market apps to, leading to quicker adoption, distribution and ROI for developers.

    Always follow the money.. Google has it, but Google Glass is new and has a long way to go to prove a business model.

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