On May 21 Computer World published an op-ed with the title Why I’m Sending Back Google Glass. The writer didn’t need ten reasons, however. They just needed one. The thing looks dorky.
Like really, impossibly dorky.
And not in a charming, Ducky in Pretty in Pink aww-shucks offbeat, geek chic way. In a creepy uncle way. To really hammer the creepy factor home, Google Glass’ (GOOG) display tends to make it difficult for users to maintain eye contact with their fellow humans, while allowing them to surreptitiously record whoever they’re talking to.
Google Glass is slowly yet surely beginning to resemble that other great tech disaster, the Segway. We all know how that little piece of revolutionary tech turned out, popularity with mall cops notwithstanding. What was supposed to make walking a thing of the past merely became a bulky signifier for a weirdo with too much money.
It certainly seems shallow to dismiss a piece of potentially revolutionary tech because it doesn’t look cool. But keep in mind, Google Glass is wearable tech. That is, fashion. And the business of fashion is by definition the business of appearances.
Apple Inc. (AAPL) gets this. There’s little confusion as to why they hire people like the CEO of iconic apparel brand Burberry, as they did last fall. Wearable tech must be functional, to be sure. But it also has to pass the “does it weird everyone else out” fashion (and decorum) test.
Wearable tech doesn’t even have to be cutting-edge hip. Functional is a start. But there’s a difference between utilitarian and obnoxious, and Google Glass falls squarely in the latter’s camp.
Blame it partly on the rollout. Google has a thing for artificial exclusivity. They did so with their invitation-only rollout of Google Plus. And they did the same with Google Glass, creating a false “only the cool kids allowed” vibe by selecting only supposed tech elites to try out the expensive product.
The unwitting result was that Google Glass, in attempting to be exclusive and cool, only highlighted the affluent users’ desperation to be seen as exclusive and cool. Well, “highlighted” isn’t the right word. They were literally wearing it on their faces.
Nobody dresses one hundred percent based on logic. If we did, we’d all wear leather clothing and tiny umbrellas on our heads. When testing out wearable tech, companies need to keep in mind how the stuff will make people look – look, as in "maintain eye contact with other humans," to be sure – but mainly look from an aesthetic perspective.
The Segway sunk because it was unwieldy, but also because it looked expensive and dumb. Google Glass has fallen into the same camp, and barring a total redesign, seems resigned to the same fate.
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