Google Glass in Eyewear – Impact on Consumers and Society

Google is set to popularise Google Glass, positioning it not as an ‘uber-geek’ item but rather one that the average person on the street can relate to and, more importantly, afford. Traditionally, new product innovations take years to refine before becoming mainstream. In this thriving technological era, however, it is clear that this transition period has shortened dramatically. Google and its partners are committed to making Glass available to mass consumers as early as the end of 2014.

While wearable products exude an air of novelty which attracts many, Euromonitor International looks at whether the market is really ready to embrace this new technology.

Are Consumers Ready for the Glass Invasion?

Once getting over the initial excitement surrounding Glass, one may start to wonder about the repercussions of this device becoming mainstream, such as whether eye health will start to deteriorate with prolonged usage, the safety of road users when more drivers start using Glass and privacy issues with regard to what is appropriate usage behaviour.

Privacy and Safety Issues

As a society, privacy and safety are key concerns when it comes to new technology. Where do we draw the line between socially acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and who will govern this? Already the negative term ‘Glasshole’ has been coined to describe a person who does not use the gadget in a socially acceptable manner. There are cafés and public places which outwardly prohibit the use of Glass on their premises, while a further campaign launched in the US called ‘Stop the Cyborgs’ encourages limiting the usage of Glass in public and private establishments.

Google Glass Ban Signs Made Available to the Public by the Stop the Cyborgs Campaign

Glass in Eyewear - stop the Cyborg

Source: Stop the Cyborgs

Safety on the road is also a concern. Many would agree that a great deal of accidents could be prevented if motorists and pedestrians were not being distracted by devices while on the move. Although one might argue that Glass will free up one’s hands, which other mobile devices potentially do not without a hands-free kit, having content appear in front of one’s eyes is likely to be a distraction. The UK government, which already bans the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving, has been one of the first to also ban the use of Glass while driving. A driver found doing so would incur a fixed penalty notice and a points deduction on his/her licence.

Evolution in Progress

Regardless of legislation, Glass poses a tricky quandary due to its eyewear design. With the expected commoditisation of the product, it is likely to evolve and become less prominent, thus making it difficult for traffic enforcers to be able to identify motorists wearing such eyewear. In addition, what constitutes usage? If a motorist wears Glass and uses it purely for its prescriptive purpose and does not switch the computer component on, does this count as usage? Again, this is area which makes enforcing the ban difficult.

As with any new innovation, Glass will face many challenges going forward. A lack of forerunner products means uncertainty for both consumers and marketers. Keeping up with the rapid speed of product introductions may lead to more apprehension than adoption among mass consumers in the early stages. Nonetheless, the potential and attractiveness of this new technology is unlikely to falter in the short term. I expect new legislation and social acceptance to eventually support this product, and one can only hope that more breakthrough and meaningful usages of the device will make this technology worthwhile.