Day 30 - Google Glass FAIL - Fortune is like Glass--the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken

Day 30 - Google Glass FAIL - Fortune is like Glass--the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken

The title of this conclusion is a quote by the Roman author Publilius Syrus from the 1st century B.C. I think what Publilius was implying is that things which attract a lot of attention have all the more chance of getting broken. Think about A-list Hollywood stars, the more prominent the star is, the more easily they could have the biggest scandal of the year. More eyes are watching them, more paparazzi are following them, the less likely it is they will get away with bad behaviour.

I personally think this statement applies precisely to Glass. It launched with a bang, it garnered lots of attraction, lots of interest and eyeballs, which meant that it was putting itself in prime position to break, and break it did.

I'm not sure where to being on this final Google Glass 30 day challenge conclusion, boy that's a mouthful, but if you've been reading the last 29 blog articles you'll know that I have plenty to say, and not much to praise.

Since I started this experiment with a few goals, perhaps the best way is to conclude my findings on each one of these major objectives and see if Glass measures up.

Is Glass the future?

Having spent the last 30 days with Glass although I did not find much I would use it for, I don't think it will get shelved at Google. They've spent so much money in developing it now I think they are just getting started, but I do think that this will end up as a professional companion device rather than something everyone wears in their daily lives.

The future is always approaching, and almost everything that we do today is designed to make life easier for us in the future. The biggest success stories coming from Silicon Valley are typically those which causes us to rethink the way we consume a service, and to make it easier.

Obvious examples of these include Uber - the car sharing taxi service, Airbnb - the sharing economy version of a bed and breakfast, even the iPad which redefined computing on the go. They all made major changes to people's lives and gave enormous benefit to the users.

The trouble with Glass is that with its current premise of trying to solve the problem that people are spending too much time looking at their phones, is fundamentally flawed. Yes people do spend a lot of time looking at their phones, but even in the past before smartphones, people would read newspapers, books, listen to music, write, review work. People always found a way to pass time in places where they didn't want to socialise.

The typical places focus around travelling or eating, and if smartphones weren't around, people would find another way to disengage with the world. There is a more genetic reason why us humans need to do this, and it goes back to the days when we lived as cavemen in tribes for hundreds of thousands of years (more about that here).

So it might seem that Google have made one of the biggest mistakes in start-up world, which is to create a solution for a problem that doesn't exist. I remember a phrase here, "A problem well stated is a problem half solved", and there's the issue, they didn't define their problem well enough.

Back to the future, surgeons are using Glass to assist in surgical procedures, vehicle engineers are using Glass to assist in motor repairs, architects are using Glass to overlay their building blueprints in real time on a 3D landscape and sports coaches are using Glass to augment their athletes performance data for enhancement.

These are all future uses which I can easily see Glass applicable for, but none of them are consumer applications. In fact I think Glass will end up as a specialist device that is used for very specific tasks like those mentioned above.
So to answer, Glass is the future, but not the one which Google intends it to be.

Is Glass acceptable?

So this question is bordering various social, cultural and professional boundaries which ask the questions as to whether we as humans, and companies will accept Glass into our lives.

Not without a fight. I think Glass has irreparably damage its own reputation and has created quite a stir in the conversation around privacy. Even before Glass, people are already aware of the dangers of social media sites like Facebook and Google+ collecting and presenting information about you. Privacy is a number one concern for most users of the internet.

The trouble is, people who haven't tested Glass are totally unaware that it really doesn't pose that much of a threat in its current state because of the many technical flaws and issues it experiences. Even in strong wifi zones it will have connectivity issues, so don't hold your breath if you think Glass is constantly upload data about you.

The privacy question is one that is raised the most, and perhaps it often get's overstated. I still think the internet is a safe place if you want it to be. For most sites you can remove or hide your data and if worse comes to the worst, you can always delete your accounts and theoretically your data should be gone. If for any reason after deletion your data should appear somewhere, you have yourself a true privacy case that you can take to court, and probably win millions of dollars compensation.

Right now, the general public don't seem to be accepting of Glass. Beyond the initial curiosity, more and more establishments are requesting that people remove Glass within their property, and for retail locations this is generally lead by other customers who do not wish to be in the presence of the device. Beyond the public, businesses are also not accepting the device, for example cinemas are banning the use of Glass as are many restaurants, bars and theatres.

Governments are also considering banning the use of Glass whilst operating a vehicle, and this is most likely to become law very shortly. I have dangerously tested driving with them, and they are a total distraction, not to mention the directions don't even work. (more about directions flaws here)

As people, we're just not ready to become cyborgs just yet, so I would say that Glass is on the whole unacceptable right now.

Glass, lifelogging and Mindlogr

Penned as a lifelogging device, I was super excited when they announced the device because back then I had just started working on the Mindlogr project ( which is in effect a private life logging tool designed for recording personal video logs. You couldn't ask for a more perfect device to record life's memories than Google Glass, so perhaps the biggest reason I needed to test Glass was to see how applicable to Mindlogr it would be.

Before I even got them I had taken a look at the programming code structure for Glassware and even with my meagre programming skills I figured I could patch something up for Glass. That of course didn't matter after I had ample time to figure out Glass for Mindlogr.

There were simply too many technical flaws and obstacles to overcome before it Glass could be useful for Mindlogr. People are recording 15 minute clips on Mindlogr and Glass defaults to 10 seconds because of battery drain issues. You can extend the recordings, but after 4 or 5 long recordings you can kiss your battery goodbye.

Of course we've mentioned the connectivity issues which between tethering, wifi and Bluetooth, Glass probably gets itself lost in the ether trying to talk on various wavelengths. For a device that needs to be connected to work, this really is a letdown.

Then of course there is the design of the device which fundamentally means it's only useful for front facing recording. Mindlogr users often want to speak to camera, so this means that Glass would have to be put down and set to record.

So wrapping up this section, it was really clear that Glass has no place for Mindlogr in its current guise. I think perhaps in the future it might come into play again, when Google release Glass version 20, but so much needs to be improved first.

Final words

I'm deeply disappointed by Glass. Ask any of my friends and they would be the first to tell you that I'm all for new technology and I'm often the first to get the latest gadgets, so when they heard I had obtained Glass, they were not surprised.

They were however very surprised at my reaction to it and all that I have criticised over the past 30 days. I'm generally known as a positive guy, always looking for the positive lessons to be learnt or the bonus points, but in the case of Glass, there really aren't many that I can promote.

I guess it's not surprising really, thinking about Google, they are fundamentally a software engineering company, and their experience of building hardware products has been learnt through mostly acquisitions of other companies, which in their time might have already been failing. Motorola is an example.

They approached the whole concept from multiple wrong angles which ultimately lead to a product that is half baked with more flaws than a diamond bought from Del Boy.

For me, I think in the end the biggest turn off is that it is a device that I have to wear on my face like glasses. I hate glasses, I used to wear them and then I decided to have laser eye surgery, just so I didn't have to wear them. I hated having to remember when I put them down, whether my sunglasses could get prescriptions, it's so much harder to look cool with glasses and it's not just me, people spend millions each year to rid themselves of wearing glasses, so why on earth would I CHOOSE to put one back on my face?

Did you know that during laser eye surgery you can smell burning flesh as the laser corrects your eye? I didn't go through that experience just so I can wear Glasses again.

Check out the video below which poses an interesting alternative view on the future of Glass.

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