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Summary:

Project Glass, Google’s augmented reality smart glasses, is the ultimate expression of the wearable tech trend. Paul Armstrong of @TheMediaIsDying says that whether you like it or not, the technology is coming–and the changes are going to be profound for the media business.

As consumer hardware goes, few items have had such an instantly polarizing effect as Google’s Project Glass, the concept smart glasses (or, to be more precise, augmented reality head-mounted display) that have become an omnipresent accessory for Sergey Brin. Granted, to call them glasses is a reductive understatement, though the company’s description isn’t much help either: “[a] technology that frees you to explore and share your world while keeping you in the moment.” Clear as mud? To the uninitiated, think of them as a small computer with a mini screen on a springy headband that sits above your eye.

Watch this Google concept video for a better idea (or to be utterly terrified):

While they were deemed stylish enough by legendary designer Diane Von Fürstenburg to put them on the catwalk, there’s still a very big split between those who instantly shout in horror and crow about security risks and those who instead envision a new dawn in computing. Perhaps they both have a point: For some they will be the ultimate intrusion yet for others they could revolutionize business or the way we interact with the world. The truth is, we just don’t know yet. One thing is for sure, however: Some have more to gain than others

Generally, I am pro Glass: After all, technology is rarely evil (technology doesn’t harm people – people harm people!) But plainly speaking, this is the first piece of tech I have seen in a long time that has the potential to truly change everything. Forget tablets, forget smartphones, the technology behind Glass is not an extension of you, it literally becomes part of you. (Crucially, unlike other tech to-date, it also leaves your hands free – a facet you can see the porn barons already dreaming about.) What is most curious, though, is that I’ve yet to see the media jump on Glass and champion it during this embryonic period. Why are we not hearing about landmark partnerships being done between Google and media powerhouses? (Or is it that Google is not playing ball with them?) Why,  as with tablets, mobile and so many developments before, is the media industry so timid that they wait to be involved before leading the discussion?

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why Google Glass is poised to change everything:

Zero setup = perfection

The idea from the start is that you pop them on and truly just carry on being you – they’ll take care of the rest. This is the ultimate device that can not only benefit from contextual information but also demonstrated behavior, such as time of reading, likes, dislikes and so on. The system will quickly pick up on those variables (among many others) and soon enough take care of it automatically: no need anymore for RSS feeds, no circling, no preferences. Just read as you normally would, and it will get smarter and more precise and better at predicting your needs and wants. This fixes my main issues with the way we get news today, which still requires too much input from the user; instead Glass just gets out of the way.

Multivariate testing

Or, in other words, testing lots of variables to see which produce the best results then upweighting that combination. Adaptive marketing will be a heavily used term next year and in subsequent years as we react to the myriad devices giving agencies, planners and publishers oodles of delicious data to crunch. News should be making huge efforts to tailor their product to the individual based on their social and interest graphs (groups, likes, shares, purchases). Imagine a layout that could be tested and then updated because a different layout led to greater consumption. Currently this could really exist only on smartphones via apps, but has not been hugely raved about because of tracking issues.

Think beyond the device

Imagine an army of reporters all using these devices. It makes true real-time, breaking news very possible – in fact, it will redefine the very notion of what news is: no longer organized but reactive. Are the days of phone footage, or images being sent via email as news breaks numbered?  Imagine how ordinary people could become live reporters simply because they happen to be right by the action. When an incident occurs, a quick mobile ping and you’ll know who is around to turn their head and broadcast live images and video. I’d certainly watch more of that than fuzzy, ultra-zoomed snapshots grabbed off Twitter.

Advertising ROI

While Google has been less than clear when talking about built-in advertising opportunities, it’s obvious that with the advances in augmented technologies like BlippAR, Aurasma and Obvious Engine image recognition is still sexy and – when used correctly – the results are good. The eye-tracking capabilities Google Glass poses should make not only media agencies and advertisers salivate but editorial departments as well. Shouldn’t better measurement, placement, contextualization, optimization of editorial (not to mention ads) be what we’re all fighting for?  Now we might have something that can do it! What’s the holdup?

This is just a taste of what’s going to possible from what my tiny noodle can dream up. The implications of these technologies are pretty staggering when you think about the big bad data wolf that’s smiling sweetly at us in the distance. Whether we like or know it, we’re going to be wearing more and more technology. When you consider the quickly expanding wearable tech trend – not just sensors in bracelets and shoes but actual things – the future looks clear.  We’ve already got Nike wristbands, headphones in hats, T-shirts that tweet, bras that help with fitness (?!), sleeptrackers, watches with emergency communication systems and about 50 prototype products from Nokia. Suddenly Project Glass doesn’t look like a crazy leap so much as a solid step in the right direction.

As with most new technologies, there are still old problems to address: namely privacy, connectivity and, of course, battery life. The last two are relatively easy to solve but the first is a deep concern for most people. Even at a surface level there are major issues here that could affect adoption (while Google has stated it has no plans to integrate facial recognition elements, it’s clearly inevitable). But personally I suspect these will be overcome with the gadget-lust/cool factor and general usability the device will inevitably enable.

Then you have the other P-word, piracy. If you think cellphones were an issue for copyright and IP theft, imagine how quickly these bad boys could destroy an industry. Taking that idea further, how would you protect your important documents in a business? What about customer service? Or will they just force us all to be in better control of these things? Ultimately, though, the deciding factor for most issues will be a lot like the success of the Nike Band: the Glass-style technology that eventually takes off will be the one that doesn’t need to be taken off by users.

Right now, this isn’t likely Project Glass for the majority of folks out there, but it does leave me hopeful that future incarnations are close by  (without surgery). Whatever way this technology goes, and I believe it will go far if the marketing continues to be as slick as it has been, it’s clear the nerds – and more importantly the cultural influencers – love Project Glass.

So, media folk, I say this:  Start making connections and beefing up your technology departments. Google I/O (Google’s Developer Conference) attendees were able to sign up for a beta, and they’ll start getting their units very soon. This technology or a version of it is coming, the only question is how soon.

Paul Armstrong is Head of Social for Mindshare; follow him at www.paularmstrong.net or on Twitter @TheMediaIsDying.

  1. Well, Bluetooth got us used to talking to ourselves in public. This is the next logical step. ..

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  2. I’m not clear on what all the fuss is about in this article. It’s a handsfree camera with a screen only visible to the wearer, plus a network connection. Phones all have cameras, screens, and network connections, so what is the big disruption? Any of the technologies the author cites as dangerous for privacy can be implemented in a phone today. Yes Glass can be deployed more discreetly but I think the difference is a matter of degree. Now, when these sensors, processors, and radios are embedded in our heads, when no one will be able to tell if you are using them or not — that will be a revolution.

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    1. Hello, you don’t have to stare at your phone walking around like a zombie. How HUGE of a difference is that?

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    2. hahaha you are a joke, obviusly you have no idea of the technology needed to make a display like this. Video? who cares about video? only an ignorant like you I guess. The possibilities of this device are far beyond video, read a book punk.

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  3. Can’t wait til they put this in my contact lens’

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  4. This is a eye-catching headline, but you haven’t really thought through the structure and detail of the article. I really want a reason to believe people in great numbers will be wearing these things in the near future, but you haven’t answered that question well.

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  5. Very good point Audrey, totally needed a nod/reference to Bluetooth!

    Adam – it’s the potential – not necessarily now but what it could be (although I think when it does come out – it’ll be pretty darn sweet).

    Richard – I know several other people who are also excited! (seen this btw? http://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2012/11/12/sce-patents-3d-eye-tracking-contact-lenses-gaze-control/).

    Simon – sorry you feel that way. I think the Bluetooth comment is a good start. I respect your opinion and thank you for it.

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  6. i am sure google will generate money out of this.. but guys.. google ADS on my eye glasses.. damn.. no way..

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  7. Jason Thibeault Thursday, November 15, 2012

    “This fixes my main issues with the way we get news today, which still requires too much input from the user; instead Glass just gets out of the way.” This has nothing to do with the implementation (Glass). Many web services already work this way using personalization software and other algorithms. We need to separate the device (the OBC + camera + wifi) from the services it will interact with that may already exist.

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  8. You will be able to drive while wearing these! :)

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  9. The question is will project glass become a novelty product? Such as a 100″ big screen monitor, were many oh and ah but only a few buy? It may be a time issue?Teens see no problem having complete transparency of their life, activist and location for many to see. security may never be a big concern. But for generation x or older, it is. As metropolitan Wi-fi grows, glasses may not be needed. Imagine a time were your device triggers silos of information were holograms pop up to provide answers, directions, or other information-free.

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    1. I think…just as teens and twenty something’s brought social media to the rest of us…the same will happen here. Just…please remove your glasses at the dinner table…and no glasses while driving.

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  10. Gordon Fang-Wong Thursday, November 15, 2012

    maps just like in dead space

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  11. Folks once laughed at those silly head torches the made there way from mountaineering to, well, everyone: beats holding a torch when you need light on something. Sergey is the Reinhold Messner of the digital world. I already want one.

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  12. Martijn van Beek Friday, November 16, 2012

    @jason thibeault: good point, I was thinking the same thing. Another thing that keeps bugging me is the user controls/input. Will I be walking on the streets nodding and making quirky head-gestures to operate my Glasses? Or will it come with some sort of remote (which would partially destroy the hands-free experience).
    @simon look around you while riding the subway or the bus, for instance. How many people do you see looking at their smartphone? Replace those phones with Glasses and you have your answer (in my opinion adoption will be even bigger since it will in a certain way take less effort to use).

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  13. The big disruption comes from another point of view I think. And that is globalization. Especially when more and more people from South America, Asia and Africa are going to join the tech world in near future.

    Today’s smartphones use far too much resources. A big display also the big battery to support it. A very mature Google Glass build with economy of scale will make this device much more affordable and sustainable all over the world.

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  14. Hisham Abdel Maguid Friday, November 16, 2012

    Epic Mobile Augmented Reality, Epic MAR is a Mobile Augmented Reality Browser. It lets you detect objects or images (magazine ads, billboards, flyers, logos, movie, a Pepsi can, ads… etc) from the real world by scanning them with your phone camera, then the application displays digital contents related to them and you can interact with it on your mobile. You could try it on a 5 Dollar 0 a 10 Euro bill to explore some digital content interactions.

    You can download it to your mobile from:
    http://www.epicmar.com

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  15. The thought of news reporters using headgear to shoot video footage has me reaching for the anti-nausea pills. There’s already a retch-inducing deluge of wobblecam junk being shot by thousands of un-trained, underpaid news shooters on the airwaves — do we need more unwatchable crap?

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  16. Google glass deprecates the image in favor of ambient field of view and is tiny and 2D. Apple could do this better by using 2 retina screens for a true 3D interface. These would look like narrow reading glasses worn low enough on the bridge of the nose to give the same visual cutoff as your car dash. Not mentioned is that even 2 screens would solve much of the problems of power consumption. Also not mentioned is the strength of such an arrangement in forming a perfect camera viewfinder eliminating the unacceptable screen washout when the sun at your back hits the screen. Cameras become Bluetooth or WiFi black boxes. You can attach the camera to a pole and shoot from above or put the camera on the ground for a macro without planting your face in the dirt. I would sell my home theater, laptop, tablet and phone to center my digital life on such a product. Social would improve with a group around a well lit round table all viewing the same material while simultaneously able to see other’s reaction. This is more social, not less, as right now we are looking at a screen in a dark room unable to really see each other. Moving to one device replacing several special purpose devices would be much cheaper for the consumer. Right now all devices have redundancy of memory, CPU, screen, speaker and radios. Imagine using such a device for, say an oscilloscope which wound be far less expensive having eliminated all this redundancy. Hands free is the final blow to current devices. It is simply inevitable.

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  17. This isn’t the incarnation of the technology that will ultimate prevail of course, but potential of this thing practically shouts out. Give this 5 years to develop, allow the physical design to settle into an unobtrusive and realistic wearable solution. By then, the general public will feel more at ease with the idea (in a similar way to “speaking to yourself ” using blutooth took a while to become acceptable). Whichever way you cut it, it’s coming your way soon.

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  18. Jason Thibeault Saturday, November 17, 2012

    I’m going to disagree here. Google Glass is just but one form of “packaging” in a landscape driven by context. Packaging is crucial for contextually-relevant experiences (CREs as I term them in my blog) of which Google Glass is one. But context has been happening for a while and media companies have been taking advantage of it (look at Shazaam and IntoNow as a couple of examples) for years. The world is definitely changing but Google Glass is just one manifestation. I’d more challenge media companies to start looking at how to leverage context more. What kinds of data can be combined to make the media experience truly personal?

    http://jasonthibeault.com/mind/2012/11/16/is-context-coming-of-age/

    @_jasonthibeault

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  19. Have you tried it? Ask any of fellow Googlers.
    It’s a total bulls*t :)
    It’s a constant distraction of your life but short messages

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  20. Finally a computer for vanity-free dorks who don’t know how to hold something.

    And they can use it for… Uhmmmmm…

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  21. No, seriously.

    The tablet/smartphone solved a need: our whole lives were being channeled through our computers, but we were coming to feel chained to our desks. Voila! Our computer goes portable; we are liberated.

    But seriously, is anyone feeling hobbled by having to get out and hold our devices when they need them? Are people walking their dogs wishing they had metadata about the sunset?

    What need does this address? And at what cost? People HATE glasses. Whole industries have sprang up to liberate people from having to wear them. THAT’S a need being addressed.

    This is Google Wave redux.

    No, strike that.

    At least Google Wave didn’t make you uglier.

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  22. The way the writer went he sounded like a paid commercial from Google.

    He made it looked like it will solve world hunger and helped the world’s poor.

    Do I need this no when my smartphone can do more than what this gadget can do. Do I need a life yes and I need not to be connected all the time, only when u need to.

    Will it be successful, the nearest thing I can think of is the Bluetooth headset and I don’t see people wearing them as if their lives depend on it.

    I need a life and my privacy and I need not have to tell google where I am and what I am doing.

    Thanks but no thanks

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    1. Paul Armstrong Sunday, November 18, 2012

      Some really great comments here. The product is not even out but the potential is undeniable. It’s how we use it, not it uses us that I think is stirring up discussion. What I Iike about the product is that you can turn them off and then forget about them should you so desire. Again, it’s how you use them that’s important.

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  23. Parashar Moghe Monday, November 19, 2012

    now you have to start talking whats in your mind…. google please work out device that reads minds…

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  24. smart watches, smart glasses… as if we wanted everything to get smarter and smaller. Together with those tactile screens already there (big, small, 4′, 7′, 10′ or whatever), massive disruption is on its way!

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  25. I was waiting for the heads up to come on when he’s in the middle of the road and he gets hit by a bus.

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  26. The fact that Vuzix has added this type of “info snacking” to their existing and emerging AR Smart Glasses portfolio is further evidence that the time is right from an AR developer standpoint.
    http://www.technologyreview.com/news/507666/googles-glass-gets-a-competitor/
    Up to now they have concentrated on wide field of view see-through glasses for industry and soon consumer applications. http://www.bit.ly/ARGlasses
    2013 may be the year of Android for proper consumer AR Apps development!

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  27. I think you’re right, and this is going to catch on a lot faster than a lot of people will think. The challenges are less about technology and more about U.I., human psychology and behavior. Seamlessly integrating these capabilities in a way that presents what you need/when you need it, and stays out of the way when you don’t, is going to be key. The “just put it on and it will quickly learn what you like” piece is, I think, going to take the longest to reach full fruition. One good thing…they should be able to make these really secure…put on someone else’s Glass, and it should flat out not work.

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  28. Your sharing bar sucks! I put in a big comment tand tried to repost to G+ and the damn popup disappeared and ate my comment! :-(. I completely agree with everything you say though!

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  29. Reblogged this on Mark Nesbitt and commented:
    If texting while driving is becoming a huge issue, imagine what the impact of this technology will be!

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  30. These will become ubiquitous as a knowledge interface for use by professionals of all kind at all levels. It will provide the ultimate reference source at the point of decision/practice and it will provide the means by which a technical enabler provides coordination between multiple skill layers in service to the client and the specialty context.

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  31. Ulderico ZE MACHADO Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    Good to have all this high tech but will walk on the street like a crazy person commanding or talking to invisible person – Technology has really driven the way how we live

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