2013 is shaping up to be a fascinating year with developers likely to get their first sight of Google glasses – a concept that could literally change the way we all see the world.
Google’s mobile connected glasses will use augmented reality to interact with the real world in real-time. A concept video from Google, entitled ‘One Day’, was released last year to an intrigued online audience. Whether it lives up to the initial promise remains to be seen, but excitement will certainly grow the closer we move to the eventual release date.
Expected to run on Android, the glasses are also set to include GPS, connect through either 3G or 4G, and contain motion sensors. A camera will also be placed at the front of the device, accompanied by a flash. Google also recently revealed the possibility of the glasses being able to make and receive phone calls.
Already rival companies are working on similar products, while also looking to the next step beyond glasses, with reports of several developers exploring contact lenses featuring similar AR technology. Apple meanwhile has been rumoured to be testing a product nicknamed iGlass, and Microsoft is also said to be gearing up a rival.
However Paul Berney, managing director EMEA of the Mobile Marketing Association, warned that the market should not get too carried away yet, saying: “There is probably more to happen with linking mobile devices before we go down the route of fully wearable computers.”
To make the point he cited Nike Fuelband, the wearable wrist band that works out how much you move before sending the information via your mobile phone to social networks, where you can compete in various leagues and leader boards. He explained that this type of technology is “more about inspiring to connect us to view the physical world in a different way.”
Mark Brill, lead partner at Brand Emotivity, agreed that connected devices are definitely the next phase of the mobile evolution. But he also believes that highly personal products such as Google Glass will pose particular challenges for those looking to use them as ad mediums.
“Some campaigns will create a deep and immersive experience, but a lot of them won’t and they will get it horribly wrong. If you consider what is so different about mobile from other channels – it’s personal as it’s within a close, personal space. Consumer engagement on mobile is high, both in terms of connection and what they deliver. If you get it wrong on mobile, you get it very wrong. So something like Google Glass, which is even more personal, could be much more problematic.”
However, Matt Mills, head of global partnerships for augmented reality content service Aurasma, is enthusiastic about the concept. Even though he does not foresee a Google Glass stampede next year he argues that it has potential to be a game changer in the long term.
“It will be a few years before the hardware is at a point where there’s a really good reason to get it,” he said. “But sooner or later there will be a shift where we move from using mobile phones to something like glasses, contact lenses or some other sort of biometric equipment to interact with the world.
“To us it doesn’t matter which route is ultimately favoured. The point of Aurasma is not necessarily about the technology, but more being a content platform which links objects to digital content and in that sense we’re completely hardware agnostic.”
No release date for Google Glass has been announced, with some predicting that it may even be pushed back to 2014. However, Google’s head of creative agency partnerships said that the company would test the product with the public as part of the development.
Mellissa Sterry, director and head of technology at Earth 2 Hub, said that would not be a bad thing because she suspects there may be some serious usability issuers to be ironed out. “There’s been a lot of press about Google’s glasses – but nobody’s asked the most complex of questions – how is that going to interact with your iris and the basic workings of your eye? Technology can cause damage to your sight, if not blindness. Which begs the question – ‘would you want to rely on technology or would you rather rely on biology?’”
Brill agreed that the continued use of AR so close to the retina will be damaging to the user’s sight and believes that, without this issue being addressed, the adoption of the technology could be delayed.
Whether it’s glasses that are the device of the future, or intelligent ski goggles, we are now entering a technological age where the very term ‘mobile’ is about to be redefined. The likes of Google Glass, though, have yet to be proven, and in all their excitement marketers should not lose sight of that fact.
This feature was published in the 04 January issue of The Drum.