Sometimes you have to sit back and wonder if it was all just a big bluff. Google Glass was supposed to take the world by storm. But before it was even out of the box it was subjected to so much scrutiny that it suffered a kind of death by a thousand critiques. Along the way it was hailed as the signal for the brave new dawn of cybernetics even as it was being banned wholesale in cinemas and casinos across America. But before it ever made it to the flop, Google Glass was pulled. They folded. Behind the scenes Google’s developers have some serious work to do.
Pulicly, the comany remain defiant that for all the shortcomings of Google Glass’s first incarnation, they are busily working towards a renewed assault on the marketplace. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Google Glass is not going to be any cheaper for that delay.
The word on the technological street is that the whole design brief for the concept has been ‘reset’, with a new man put in charge – former Apple designer Tony Fadell. Mr Fadell is said to be working alongside Google’s head of smart-eyewear Ivy Ross, who is also a jewellery designer. And now, we are advised, although there has been a welter of negative publicity, a complete overhaul in terms of personnel, and the considerable bitterness that goes with dashed hopes, this is how it was meant to be. That might just be another fake move.
Google’s initial introduction of the devices to a carefully niched coterie of the great and the good of geek-dom (or at least those enthusiastic enough to part with $1,500 for the privilege) was no more than a public road test. Word is that they will take on board the lessons learned from those ‘trials’ and move forwards.
Hopefully the first lesson they will have taken away is not to try to run product tests in public. For an organisation of Google’s size, that $1,500 fee now looks remarkably cheap – and not in a good way. Normally companies pay for their market research.
As and when – and possibly even if – we see Google Glass again, at least we will have been given the opportunity to road test our reactions to the idea. Irrespective of the actual performance of the prototype (universally condemned) the hostility that the concept stirred up remains un-doused. That, as much as any technical issue, is Googles big problem.
Nowhere was the issue more hotly debated than in the ethically febrile world of professional gambling. It makes for a good barometer. Barry Carter, the highly respected editor of PokerStrategy.com and author of the definitive “The Mental Game of Poker”, has detailed the vexed issue of such assistive technologies in what is for some a recreational setting, but which for others is purely business. Carter came down against Google Glass in his article ‘Should Google Glass be banned at live poker tables‘, although not necessarily for the reasons you might anticipate.
At a time when poker star Phil Ivey has found himself in hot water for essentially using a little (human) help to keep track of the cards, Carter was surprisingly relaxed when it came to the mathematical possibilities that Glass might enable. ‘What is good for the goose is good for the gander’ pretty much sums up his attitude. He seemed to argue that there is already so much computerised assistance backing up players’ moves – particularly online – that bringing such technology out into the open is simply a matter of bad manners. Carter’s bottom line objection was that games are slowed down by players continually referring to such devices.
And that very social reaction – and rejection – of Google Glass is the one objection to the product that won’t go away. The idea that privacy might be compromised because you can see something that is already visible has always been flaky. Issues of copyright notwithstanding, it was never a serious issue for debate – more a handy stick for the Luddites than anything else.
Aside from those cases where assistive technology might be used for overcoming some physical limitation, the question of whether there is any point to Google Glass as a mainstream product is one that simply won’t go away. There are many who see it, at best, as an expensive way to replace a dashboard mount for a smartphone.
And if you are faintly irked at the way those smartphones detach people from what is going on around them, imagine the horror of looking someone in the eye only to realise that despite all appearances to the contrary what they are actually doing is checking out the result of the 3.30 at Clifford Park, or playing a hand of poker.
Whatever the computational merits that Google Glass might offer, it is difficult to see how it will make doing business in any way better. The reaction of the poker fraternity reflects a much wider consensus. Data is one thing, but human interaction – whether it’s over a contract or a deck of cards – is always the basis of how real deals get cut. The next time Google Glass is pitched into the public domain, that bottom line social obstacle is the one key objection they are going to have to see their way to resolving.