Last week, Google Inc. began shipping its development-stage Google Glass, to beta testers and software engineers who elected to tinker with the mobile device. Like many smartphones, Google Glass runs on Android, connects to the internet and includes a cam and voice-recognition software. But unlike handhelds, it is engineered as eyewear that sits on the bridge of the nose.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt reportedly told attendees at a seminar, “think of this [shipment] as beta testing.” Google charged developers $1,500 for the device – not a friendly way to beta-test a product that is expected to launch next year.
Even more alarming are signs that Google itself doesn’t understand the product. On the Glass Collective site dedicated to funding innovation around Glass, Google Ventures General Partner Bill Maris is quoted as saying: “When you first see somebody wearing Glass, you might think “What can that thing do?’ Well, quite honestly, we’re wondering the same thing.”
Exactly what does Google Glass mean for the future of mobile? Is it just a wearable device? Or is it the first shot fired in a revolution that will declare independence from handhelds? Consumers tethered to their desktop and laptop devices were freed by smartphones. Now we are enslaved by them. Will Google Glass free its users or just force Android into their eyeballs in a way that doesn’t enhance the user experience?
The public’s favorite application of mobile communication remains texting, which years ago surpassed email and phone calls in popularity. Clearly what is needed is a device that rethinks mobile for people who are on-the-go. If Google Glass can help end the problem of consumers averting their vision from their environment to gaze down at their palm or talk seemingly to themselves, it will be worth it to prevent traffic fatalities and other sociological and user-interface problems associated with handhelds.
Silicon Valley startup TelepathEye Inc. is dedicated to the hands-free, voice-free experience that will revolutionize communication by interfacing with the eye. That is clearly not the intent for Google Glass because of its voice recognition, Android software and compatibility with handhelds.