Early adopters might make Google Glass seem dorky
Like Bluetooth headsets, Glass is lopsided, with a camera on one lens
Writer says Glass is what happens when Silicon Valley doesn't get the real world
The Segway. The Bluetooth headset. The pocket protector.
What do these three technologies have in common? They all pretty much work as promised. They all seem like good ideas on paper. And they’re all too dorky to live.
Now, far be it from me to claim that nerdiness equals lack of popularity potential. But I contend that dorkiness and nerdiness are two different qualities. While nerdiness implies a certain social awkwardness that’s ultimately endearing, dorkiness connotes social obliviousness that opens you to deserved ridicule.
Guess which category Google Glass will fall under when it goes “mainstream?”
Forget about the privacy concerns for a second. I don’t think you have to get that serious to recognize the inherent antisocialness of Google Glass. All you have to do is look at the guy in the picture at the top of this post. Or any of the rest of the guys on White Men Wearing Google Glass, a new Tumblr that serves up the data needed to transform the hypothesis “Google Glass is too dorky to succeed” into a proven scientific theory.
Disagree? The floor is open for falsification. Start your own Tumblr: People Who Look Cool While Wearing Google Glass.
Before its release, some of the smartest people in tech predicted that the Segway would change the world. And even when the world joined in a collective “Huh?” when the much-hyped secret Ginger project was revealed to be a gyro-balanced scooter, the idea still kind of made sense. If we were all riding around on Segways now, cities would probably be better places to live compared to the car-infested streets we still endure.
But that transformation hasn’t happened. And it won’t. Why? Because Segways are lame. They’re too rational. They fail to acknowledge all the irrational reasons people love their cars.
Similarly, Google Glass fails to acknowledge that walking around with a camera mounted on the side of your face at all times makes you look dorky. Think of the Bluetooth headset: it’s a really sensible way to use your phone without having to take it out of your pocket—so sensible that there’s really no reason not to keep that headset in your ear most of the time.
But you don’t, do you? There’s a reason that Saturday Night Live put a Bluetooth headset on Jason Sudeikis in its recurring “Two A-Holes” sketches.
Google Glass, like the Segway, is what happens when Silicon Valley spends too much time talking to itself. Maybe that’s even overstating the case: The rhetoric around Google Glass is what happens when important tech people spend a little too much time congratulating each other.
There’s really nothing wrong with Google Glass as a technological experiment. The future will include some kind of wearable smart technology, and it’s important for Google to be experimenting in that direction.
But Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s presentation at TED, in which he characterized wearing Google Glass as somehow more macho than pulling your smartphone out of your pocket, underscores the tone-deafness that can envelop Silicon Valley when VIPs get a little too excited about the Next Big Thing. Brin, after all, is a guy who thinks nothing of engaging in spontaneous yoga in the middle of a crowded tech conference. This isn’t a bad thing—on the nerd to dork scale, it definitely tilts toward “nerd.”
But if you’re one of the shareholders helping to keep Google’s shares trading above $800, the dork factor of Google Glass should give you pause. Google is still trying to crack the secret of monetizing mobile technology, which so far hasn’t proven as lucrative as its desktop search business. Google Glass may be a fun experiment in building another mobile platform to attract as-yet-unimagined revenue streams.
But making money on consumer technology requires that consumers embrace that technology. If Google Glass makes you look as cool as the guys in that Tumblr, that embrace is about as likely to happen as you hugging a Segway. Or Robert Scoble in the shower.