Brin recently ignited conversation about Google’s Glass by claiming that using a mobile phone was ‘emasculating’.

He might be right, but do wearable computers really offer us a better option, or is Glass likely to be filed under ‘Massive Fail’ in the near future? 

Before I get started, let me mention that I’m a massive fan of wearables and related haptic tech.

I’ve been waiting years for these things to turn up in my local BigMart, but frankly I get the feeling that Glass isn’t the product to take wearables mainstream.

I don’t want some dorky glasses. I want connected contact lenses, with a projection keyboard and pressure pad clothing interaction so I can actually feel the catapult as I fire angry birds through the air.

I want something with it’s own TB storage that fits on my keychain, so that I don’t have to worry that the homemade Lord of the Rings skin I’ve pasted over my real-world commute will go down as soon as my train goes through a tunnel. 

Here’s five reasons Glass can’t provide me with all the options…

1. Voice control sucks, big time 

When we think of voice control we imagine ourselves on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, barking orders at a helpful computer to make us a cup of tea (Earl Grey. Hot) or find out where Mr.Data has left his car keys.

In reality it doesn’t work that way:

Do you really want to walk around shouting “Take a bloody picture now Glass!” at your own head like a loon, only to have your haptics order you a large pizza?

We’ve all seen the results of even mild accents on voice control systems, and for the foreseeable future, Glass will be almost entirely voice control, otherwise what’s the point?

Good luck getting results if you aren’t from the Valley. 

2. It looks stupid

Not that people are averse to wearing stupid things of course, but do we really think Dr.Dre can make the currently nerdy Glass frame as ubiquitous as Beats on the street? Will he even bother? Glass currently looks like it’s straight outta Compton, Surrey

Google does seem to realize this, and is already talking to Warby Parker in the hope that they can provide something slick and stylish, but let’s face it, wearable computers are supposed to make us look like this:

For the foreseeable future, we're still getting this:

People don’t really want wearable computers – they want connected fashion statements. Give it some flair Google! 

3. It's hugely expensive

OK, so you’d probably punt $1,500 on a new MacBook, but would you really spend that on a phone or tablet?

A laptop has multiple functions, whereas Glass is essentially a mobile device.

Even the iPad has entry models at less than a third of this, and is far more functional. Think about it – can you really even use Pinterest via Glass?

Or copy and paste those directions? Or play Candy Crush Saga without making yourself boss-eyed?  

Aside from maps and telling your social networks to share a video of you (walking into something due to your limited field of vision), there’s no appropriate apps infrastructure. That leaves Glass with limited functions, ultimately pushing it into the realm of mobile Wii Despite massive sales, even with Android the gaming options are limited. Can we really expect devs to take on Glass in a satisfactory way? 

4. Google fails to meet demand for things 

Google are a magnificent, exciting company, but let’s face it, they have a track record of being absolutely crap when it comes to actually shipping hardware.

Remember the #NexusFail? No, not many people do, because they never received their Nexus so couldn’t moan about it on Twitter.

If Google wants to address the price and supply issue they’ll need major league production facilities, and currently they just don’t have them.

Until there’s a stream of automated factories parked next to the server farm in Iowa then we can expect massive delays, and for a luxury item that’s a big no-no.

Of course, Google could always team up with someone else to help produce the hardware, but who, without looking pointedly at any factories with a picture of an Apple on the side of them, has the exacting tech production facilities to address demand? 

5. Can you really have a great UX on a HUD?

In the world of mobile, we seem to be drifting towards larger screens, with more functionality, and without a high-level (think Iron Man Level) interface, a HUD just can’t compete.

Interestingly this brings up a lot of fundamental questions about mobile interfaces .

All mobile displays are designed with one thing in mind: You are using a flat screen.

On a mobile, if you want to zoom out, you tap and do that weird splayed fingers movement (we decided it was just called ‘zoom’ in the office).  How do you zoom out of HUD?

In real life you lean backwards.

There’s an entire generation already growing up with ‘double tap’ functionality firmly embedded in their minds, and while it’s not impossible, is the mass market really ready to start learning and using an entirely new gesture system?  

Of course, there’s always voice control. For absolutely everything: “Glass, take a sneaky picture of this smelly weirdo that I can post on Reddit for lulz and karma” 

For advertisers this brings up more problems. Is there an agency out there that is all set to redefine display ads in an entirely new way? Or are we just set to get a display clogged with pop-ups and billboard ads skinned over the top of the regular world?  

This vision of the future is old. If Google wants Glass to be a success, it’ll need to come up with some pretty radical AR functions. 

To be honest, I hope that Glass will be a huge success, but to coin a phrase, #IfIHadGlass I'm not sure I'd be able to use it for much without some serious hacking. 

What do you think about Glass? Must-have or extra windscreen? Let us know in the comments!

Matt Owen

Published 1 March, 2013 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen is a marketing consultant based in London. He was previously Head of Social at Econsultancy and currently runs Atomise Marketing. Opinions expressed are author's own.

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Comments (16)

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Joe Bush

The idea of them interests me, but in practice, I don't see myself talking to a pair of glasses.

This is very similar to Siri, it interests me but even when I'm alone I feel odd using voice control.

over 5 years ago


Depesh Mandalia, CEO & Founder at SM Commerce

I'd really like a clever watch, which I could use to talk to my automated car in case I forget where I parked it. The car would probably be called KITT.

This comes back to the foundation question: what problem are you trying to solve?

I think Glass can certainly help enhance certain features of mobiles but I don't think it can replace it, yet. But lets not forget that it has got us all talking and someone out there will be thinking about Glass and it could be improved upon, both from a hardware and software point of view.

I'm personally up for an Iron Man suit TBH...

over 5 years ago


marco bertozzi

I would imagine you are still using a paper diary right? Come on, do you really think this is about Glasses or is it about technical innovation generally?

And the answer to all the questions you ended with No, will be yes for enough people to make a success of this - I doubt Google will be aiming to outstrip iPhone sales in the first place.

For a company associated with digital and innovation, you have taken a pretty backward stance.

Good on Google for this creation and self driving cars and everything else they do, we need more companies pushing boundaries generally.

over 5 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Marketing Consultant at Atomise Marketing

It depends Marco, I only use a paper diary when there's a R in the month ;)

over 5 years ago


Alex Smith, Account Manager EMEA at Econsultancy

Google Glass boasts massive security issues in itself, even if the design is spot-on they still have global litigation to worry about. Google's lawyers still need to find some serious loopholes around privacy laws before this hits the mass market.

Trendy enough for the younger generation, but if they want to target the 'older folk' they should give it a Geordi La Forge makeover.

over 5 years ago

Joseph Buhler

Joseph Buhler, Principal at buhlerworks

Tend to agree on this and would personally prefer a watch like device not least because I already have to wear prescription glasses with progressive lenses. Hello, Apple iWatch?

over 5 years ago

Robert Stevens

Robert Stevens, Director at Sharp Ahead

We do a lot of customer experience research using wearable eye tracking glasses to improve in-stores experiences and occasionally people do go to the loo whilst wearing them, it doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

over 5 years ago


matthew polston

Ok matt obviously you did not pay attention in school because you do not pay attention in life. Google glass will ultimately succeed for 1 people are not stupid they will see glass and know you talking to it, 2 it does not look geeky or stupid it actually looks cool, 3 you again did not pay attention because it will be 1500$ before its sold to the public, when it is sold it will be around the price of a phone,4 just because they failed at nexus does not mean they fail at everything, and last but not least 5 the hud that you will see will surely have zoom in it and if not my bad.

over 5 years ago

Lee Cash

Lee Cash, Senior Business Development Manager at Qubit

What's the killer app for this new device? Is there anything that I can't currently do with a smartphone? I'd need a damn good reason to wear these as I still choose to watch the cinema in 2D rather than wear the glasses required for 3D viewing.

over 5 years ago


David Robertson

Google isn't attempting to "take wearables mainstream." It's an experiment and a way of getting other companies interested in moving the tech forward, not a conventional business venture.

over 5 years ago

Andrew Japp

Andrew Japp, Owner at Leafbud Digital

Will it give me zoomable vision, if it does then I'm in, otherwise change the name to googgles and be done with the fad, till it arrives.

I've already confused with smartglass.

over 5 years ago


Jon Darke

Agree. We predict it will make a plus-sized splash and fade into a wave of disappointment.

over 5 years ago


Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

If this gives me zoomable vision I'm in.

over 5 years ago

Lee Cash

Lee Cash, Senior Business Development Manager at Qubit

Well, we all wanted x-ray vision after reading The Beano... Can we put that on the features wish list too? :)

over 5 years ago


Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

"Until there’s a stream of automated factories parked next to the server farm in Iowa then we can expect massive delays, and for a luxury item that’s a big no-no."

I find this confusing. Why do they need this? They can produce them in the same way major tech companies do, outsourced to China.

over 5 years ago



I agree with you, In my opinion I don't think this is a very innovative idea. I think they've rehashed something seen in many cartoons and video games and made it a poor reality. I don't think its a practical invention and I think they could work on it a lot more. I don't see many people who will willingly fork over $1500 to buy a pair of unfashionable glasses so I think that the marketing side will ultimately cause 'google glass' to fall. If they want to make something revolutionary why not make it interact with your brainwaves or something rather than having voice control which obviously means having to shout and repeat commands over and over in public or at home.

about 5 years ago

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