Sunday, April 26, 2015

Google Glass Is Alive And About To Deliver A Digital Disruption Tidal Wave

photo credit: Friday is #GoogleGlass time
@kptotalhealth w @skram @wareflo

via photopin (license)
If you thought Google Glass was dead, you were wrong. Massimo Vian, CEO of Italian eyewear maker Luxottica, told shareholders it is working on a new version of the wearable.

If you thought Google had given up on Google Glass, you were not paying attention. While Google shut its Explorer program, it moved the development of Google Glass under Tony Fadell, head of Google’s Nest connected home division, “to make it ready for users.”

If you thought the poor reception for version 1.0 of Google Glass meant that internet-connected eyewear would never catch on, you are forgetting history. The tech era is littered with version 1.0 failures that were followed by enormous successes. The Apple MessagePad, a digital personal assistant launched on Apple's Newton platform, crashed and burned in 1998; nine years later, Apple released the first generation of the iPhone to great acclaim. Another example is the Tablet PC, which Microsoft launched in 2002 to meager adoption; eight years later the iPad would create a tablet revolution, and today the Surface is delivering its third straight quarter of profits for Microsoft.

I remain convinced Google (or Apple or someone else) will eventually develop digital eyewear that will enjoy strong adoption. Right now, many people react with some level of revulsion and suspicion to Google Glass (which is why the term "glasshole" has entered our lexicon); however, I remember the reaction I got in 1987 when I showed off the graphics on my new Atari 1040 PC. Or 1995 when I tried to convince friends the Internet was going to change the world (while waiting for a page of text to load through my Prodigy dialup connection). Or 2003 when I pulled out my Palm Treo to access Wikipedia in order to end an argument with friends over which artist released a song.

As an individual with a long history of early adoption or fast following, I can attest to the strong visceral negative reaction many have to evolutions in technology, and the initial backlash to Google Glass was no different. But if the past three decades teaches us anything, it is that humans find a way to overcome their doubts and rapidly embrace new technologies once they can see and understand the benefits.

Who knows what connected eyewear experiences will knock down that wall of aversion that Google Glass still faces. Maybe you will be missing friends' conversations while trying to get a game update on your phone when the person next to you, who was an active part of the conversation, suddenly announces, "Hey, the Packers just won." Or maybe you will embarrass yourself at a crowded industry event by not remembering names, only to have the Google Glass-wearing woman next to you greet everyone on a first name basis. Or perhaps you will miss an emergency text from your children's school because your phone is off for an important meeting while the guy across the conference table gets vital updates without breaking eye contact.

Just as people who once mocked PCs as expensive toys soon found a way to budget $1500 for a 486 PC or the folks who relentless ribbed their Crackberry friends stood in line for an iPhone, the people who today say they would not be caught dead wearing Google Glass will crack. It will happen as the hardware improves, as software evolves, as benefits become evident and as more people make the switch. It will not happen next year, but it will happen--and when it does, retail and product brands face a reckoning.

One of the interesting effects of the march of technology from TVs to PCs to Internet to mobile to wearables is that each turn of the tech screw brings greater personalization and customization to our world. We used to watch the same three networks at exactly the same time; then we had greater access to the information we prefer via Internet-connected PCs; and today we use apps like Flipboard and Netflix to see just the news and entertainment we want to see.

We moved from three networks to 1 billion websites and over 1 million apps, but today there remains one "channel" where we all see the same thing--the real world. Our interpretation may be different, but a walk down the aisle of Target looks the same to you as to me. Not only is the physical shopping experience the same for everyone, it also has changed little over time--while the brands, packaging and shopper marketing strategies have changed over the decades, the essential experience of shopping in the real world remains largely the same as decades ago.

All of that changes once we adopt digital eyewear. Suddenly, the real world can be as unique and differentiated as our digital worlds. Google Glass or other high-tech eyewear will turn the sameness of the store aisle into a rich and informative view of the things that matter to you.

Do you care about brands that employ union labor? Do you prefer to spend your money with companies that furnish living wages? How about brands that avoid testing on animals? Companies that have made positive changes toward sustainability? Would you rather avoid ones that shift profits overseas to avoid paying the US taxes? Think of how helpful it would be if an app visually highlighted the top-rated products on the shelf. Or maybe you just want the lowest price net of coupons available online. (Who has the time to check ten competitive products for coupons on RetailMeNot? Your Google Glass does!)

If you think Amazon is a daunting competitor today, imagine what it could do in the future with digital eyewear. Amazon Eye (a not-yet-trademarked name I just invented) can instantaneously price every product you look at in the store aisle. Should you prefer the price you see on Amazon, simply say "Add to prime," and Amazon will have the product waiting for you by the time you get home, delivered via Amazon Now or Amazon Prime Air drone delivery. Connected eyewear will bring a new wave of showrooming, forcing bricks-and-mortar stores to find new and better ways to compete.

Let's not forget collaborative economy models in the era of connected eyewear. What happens when you look at a new lawnmower or four-person camping tent and your Google Glass points out you can rent them from a neighbor or friend for $6 a day rather than spend $199 to own the item? How will the availability of items to borrow or rent, made evident in real-time via Google Glass, alter the consideration and purchase of durable goods?

Overnight, what brands print on their packaging and even what they say in their advertising will become less relevant. In the same way consumers have splintered their media consumption in the living room, so too will store aisles face the same splintering, thanks to Internet-connected eyewear that knows and reflects the unique preferences of each wearer.

Is your brand prepared to compete for attention and preference on price, labor practices, sustainability policies, corporate accounting practices and quality--simultaneously? Of course not; no brand can be all things to all people. The future of digital eyewear means brands must focus Customer Experience efforts even more on the needs of unique audiences, being careful to set the right mix of price, purpose, quality and corporate behaviors that appeal to sufficient numbers of consumers.

We talk a lot about digital disruption nowadays, and many companies have gained some comfort in their ability to innovate, adapt and evolve, but we should not forget that wearables, the Internet of Things and collaborative consumption will bring a new wave of disruption in the next fifteen years. The way consumers become aware of, consider and purchase brands will be as different in 2030 as today's customer purchase journeys are different from 2000. In fact, as the pace of change is always increasing, the evolutions will be even greater in the next fifteen years than the past fifteen.

Mock Google Glass 2.0 and those who wear them all you want, but someday soon wearables will bring to the physical world the same instant, proactive, personalized access to information and functionality that we have come to expect on our phones, tablets and PCs. The term Glasshole will soon seem as quaint and dated as the word Crackberry, and the people and brands who see the Google Glass half empty will be left behind to those that prepare for a world Glass-ful.


Amanda R said...

This is cool, but scary at the same time. Thanks for writing this article! PS - do you take blog submissions?

Augie Ray said...

Amanda, I think its cool and scary at the same time, too. All the most important things are!

I'm afraid I do not take submissions. I've tried to maintain my blog--right or wrong--with a singular voice. Thanks for asking.

Boney said...

Wow, this article is an eye-opener. Very insightful. Love it.

And I can still see how many who read this, would say:
"Sure some of those earlier things eventually got it right, but why are you so sure this one is going to "take off"?"

Well, it's their loss, if they bank on "nothing disruptive is around any corner that we have to care about". ;-)

I have posted your link on LinkedIn.