Last Friday, with about 200 other people from the Irish digital media and marketing industry, I attended Google’s ‘Think with Google 2013’ event at their newest facility – the Foundry.  While their new convention facilities are admittedly smart and the presentations were good, the highlight of the day for me was most definitely getting the opportunity to road test their new Google Glass headset.

A simple headset in appearance, it uses prism screens to project query data in front of the viewer as well as providing a range of functions including a camera, video recording, translation, and messaging.

First released to a small group of developers earlier this year who had the opportunity to enter a lottery to buy one at $1500 – Google has now recruited over 10,000 individuals in the US to beta test the headsets. As official ‘Glass Explorers’ this group are currently feeding back on functionality and their experiences to enable Google to make their final tweaks and refinements before releasing it to the general public in early 2014 (exact timing to be confirmed). No price tag has been advised just yet but online rumours mills have it retailing in the region of €300-€600.

Mindshare's Fiona Gallagher trying out Google Glass

During Friday’s event, a small and admittedly pretty excited (though we tried to play it cool) group of us got to spend about 5 minutes each with the headset.  Though not enough time to really get to grips with the device and test out the entire range of functions, it was enough time for me to quickly learn that:

  • The headset is surprisingly light and flexible yet appears to be strong and resilient enough for day to day wear (for example being stuffed under a couch or grabbed by little hands).
  • It doesn’t block your view of what is ahead of you – but it is certainly distracting.
  • It is highly instinctive to use with a combination of simple hand swipe movements, head tilts and voice enabled commands such as ‘okay glass, take a picture’ to activate functionality.
  • It comes in a range of consumer friendly named colours – Charcoal, Tangerine, Shale, Cotton and Sky.
  • We think the version we tested was from Texas as it struggled to understand some of the Irish accents.

There is a lot of talk within media and technology circles as to what degree consumers will use these types of headsets and if realistically people will wear them out and about on the street. A lot yet depends on how developers respond to the challenge of the device and what applications are going to appear that will make it an absolutely essential tool for everyday life. For example, Field Trip – a local discovery app, has just released an app for Glass which allows wearers to scan interesting information about what they are viewing around them.  There are also questions marks around consumer privacy that need to be ironed out.

There are no advertising opportunities currently within Glass but personally think it is inevitable that these will begin to emerge, most likely after the device has reached critical mass in terms of audience reach.  There has been talk of a ‘pay-per-gaze’ advertising model whereby Google is rewarded when the screen is viewed for X period of time but as yet nothing definite has been advised directly by Google.

And as to, would I wear it myself?  Well, thoughts as follows:

  • Would I wear it while watching TV?  - Yes
  • Would I wear it at a concert? – Perhaps
  • Would I wear while cycling? – No, I value my life
  • Should they be allowed in business meetings? – Absolutely not
  • Would I wear while shopping?  – Perhaps, if it can provide recipe or style inspiration 

 

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