November 13, 2013
by Adina Daar, Research Consultant, Sachs Insights
This installment of 'Glass at Sachs' highlights 5 key features & forecasts of Google Glass.
It has been roughly four months since I first picked up Google Glass from the very beautiful Chelsea Market office documented in my previous post. In the time since, I have given many demonstrations to family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. The experiences over this time have been full of excitement, positivity, and fleeting feelings of indulgence. I am increasingly aware that the experience I am having is fairly unique, and the understanding of myself, the people around me, and how complete strangers react to Glass has been both insightful and delightful.
Looking at Glass as a potential piece of consumer technology, my impression thus far is mixed. As a market researcher, I have access to the development of new technology, new ideas, and new user interfaces and experiences, all of this comes into play in how I view the potential Glass has to offer. The big questions everyone wants to know - will Glass be a defining consumer product, like the iPod, to take us all by storm and make wearable technology a ubiquitous reality of the next decade? Or, will Glass flop and leave us only with the learnings to incorporate into the next attempt at new technology? Well, there are a lot of business variables that come into play here, and only time will tell, but from my view behind the Glass prism screen, there are 5 key features of Glass that I predict will have a lasting impact…
1. HANDSFREE PHOTO AND VIDEO
One of the best parts about using Glass is the ability to capture hands-free photos and video. It is so incredibly easy to do and there has not been a single person to try Glass with me that has not been able to pick it up and take a photo with very little direction. I sometimes feel like I have become a walking, talking, breathing camera - capturing not only my first-person perspective as life around me happens, but more importantly, capturing moments as they are, without all of the posing that you get with traditional cameras. The only thing better than this would be if my eyeball took photos and let me upload them directly to Instagram.
To give you an idea of some of the experiences I have captured during my time wearing Glass, here are a few shots:
And of course this NYC cycling video!
FORECAST Capturing reality and experiences has never been easier and more authentic. As we scale back from the abstract, and become interested in the tangible aspects of the lives of individuals around us (e.g. how they work, what it’s like to base-jump, or perform open heart surgery) the first person perspective will be key in delivering experiences that go beyond entertainment and far into the realms of teaching and learning.
2. A (MOSTLY) WIRE-FREE LIFE
When Google+ first came out, I will admit that I tried it and then almost immediately stopped from lack of critical mass – it just didn’t make sense as a social networking platform. However, it does work very well as an archive and database. Since getting Glass, Google+ has become the hub where all of my ‘life content’ lives. All photos and videos taken via Glass automatically sync over wifi to my Google+ album, which translates to access to photos and videos to show on my phone, computer, tablet, whenever and wherever. The wires have been cut and I have never been happier. The user interface has a few hurdles to overcome, but everything is on there, and I haven't touched a data wire in relation to Glass from the very beginning (charging is of course a different story).
FORECAST This is perhaps one of the purest use cases for cloud computing that we have to date. It’s not necessarily a new thing, but it is new for wearable technology where the need to plug in or connect to a dongle is still a reality for many devices. I expect that more companies will continue to aim for ‘uninterrupted’ experiences whether through Google+ or through new platforms. Bringing that magical moment of ‘it was there and now it’s here’ to life is imperative for the survival of any company striving for true mobility.
3. NAVIGATING THE LIFESTREAM
The user interface of Glass is actually quite difficult to explain or trial with people. After giving so many demonstrations, I have come to think of it as operating in two ways – ‘command’ and ‘recall’. For command, you go through a menu where you continue to make choices, going deeper and deeper into your options like we do ordering a pizza online. The ‘Recall’ aspect is the ability to cycle through all of the choices you have made on Glass in chronological order. To explain how ‘recall’ works, anything that the wearer looks up, any photo taken, any email as it comes in, any news update or restaurant recommendation, is stored as a timeline easily accessible from the home screen. It is this ‘recall’ aspect of navigating through Glass that I found to be new and exciting as well as intuitive – that is contextual navigation because it taps into my memory as a way of finding information that I have already accessed.
Having experienced this the first time, it is much easier to find a photo when thinking about my day than it is to go into photos and scroll from there – instead, information is nested next to what came before and after. Don’t get me wrong, this would be completely tedious if the intention was to find old information this way, but actually it works more like ‘my day at a glance’ it is all current and somewhat fleeting, but for easy access the latest conversation or something that matters to me NOW, the recall way works like a charm. As for the ‘command’, well that one is tricky and requires the learner to really become accustomed to the nuances of Google Glass. Once you get the hand of the voice command, it goes a little something like this:
“okay Glass (pause) Get Directions to (pause) Chipotle (pause) no, no, C-H-I-P-O-T-L-E”. Needless to say, after a few tries at increasingly louder volume, you realize that you are yelling at yourself, and give up. It has some ways to go, but when it works (as for photos and videos) it can be amazing.
FORECAST ‘Recall’ and ‘Contextual’ navigation is already happening all around us (think Netflix’s ‘Recently Watched’ list) but the more this is engrained in user experience the better. Curating a tunnel vision into one users daily life points in the direction of highly personal computing – personal doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else but the person who owns it.
4. BACK TO BASIC CUSTOMER SERVICE
Glass updates fairly often and sometimes there are major changes. When Version XE8 of the software came around in August, I frankly wasn’t interested in trying to piece together all of the information about what and how it would impact my Glass experience. I just wanted to know what the changes were, and really I just wanted to ask someone. Thankfully, the Google Glass team was on hand to host 30 minute question and answer sessions online. I logged into Google+, joined a hangout, and lo and behold, came face to face with about 6 other Glass users and 2 Google Glass Guides. That was probably the first time I felt like I had a network. Another user explained all of the changes to me in a way that I can only describe as ‘classroom learning’, it probably took about 5 minutes and I was good to go – no digging through guides, no getting passed around from person to person on the phone. It was one of the most delightful customer experiences I have had of late. It’s pretty good when your customers do the work for you isn’t it?
FORECAST As wearables and connectivity increase, we will have new ways of communicating with the people who produce and manage our experiences. Coming from an age where everything became very impersonal (I’m talking email help and hair-tearing telephone voice recognition systems) I think we are coming up to a point where internet speeds and data management are powerful enough to support customer service that is face-to-face again – returning some of the humanity and associations of products with actual people (with actual faces!) to guide us through our product and brand experiences. This just feels (key word here) like a very exciting territory with potential to improve customers experiences overall. It certainly made a difference to me.
5. RISE OF THE ‘GLASSIE’
Last but not least - nearly every person that tries Glass ends up taking a photo. And, because I am usually giving them the tour, and being that Glass is on their head, they often just end up taking a photo of me. Useless perhaps to the people trialing, but actually I have found that this happy accident has amassed a great collection of pictures of myself in lots of places I have been. My colleague, Julie Riederer, aptly named these photos ‘Glassies’. I’m pretty sure we are onto something. There is nothing better than having pictures of yourself, that someone else has taken, that then uploads directly to your online account, to be shared in a blog.
Check out some of my ‘Glassies’ below:
FORECAST It is still important to provide customers with a way to project into or place themselves ‘in the moment’ but difficult when the camera is attached to the body! I found that relying on other people to document my life is much easier than doing it on my own, but more than that, the ‘Glassie’ approach is highly capable of capturing emotion, relationships, and memories in a new and interesting way.
We’ve given Google Glass a fair review from a consumer perspective, but it is hard to say where it will go from here. Like a lot of new innovations in technology, consumer use often is inspired by the use cases companies create. So, I think it is time to expand outwards, and give Glass a run in the commercial side of life. Let’s see what these things can do in the world of market research and customer insight. Stay tuned!