Google Glass: A revolution or a modern-day Segway?

After two weeks of trying out Google Glass, Robert Scoble is sold: The noted tech enthusiast wrote today that he had barely taken it off during waking hours and won’t live another day without it or a similar product from competitors. The augmented reality gadget was a huge hit at the recent NextWeb Conference, Scoble said, drawing an “emotional outburst” from “nearly everyone” who saw them. Google Glass will be a big hit if it’s priced in the roughly break-even price of $200 or so, according to Scoble; a substantially steeper price would produce higher margins but would likely forestall mass-market adoption.

TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher has a very different opinion, however. After giving an admittedly brief hands-on, Butcher predicts the gadget “will not become a mass-market device any time soon.” Checking the screen requires eye movements that aren’t natural, voice commands can be awkward, and going back and forth between the screen and the physical world may cause headaches. Google Glass is likely destined to become this era’s Segway, according to Butcher, a much-hyped gadget “ultimately used by warehouse workers and mall cops.”

I have yet to lay my hands on Google Glass, but while those opinions may seem diametrically opposed I think Butcher and Scoble are both right in some ways. Even in the range of $200 — a price I think is unlikely for at least a couple of years — Google Glass and other AR-based glasses will require huge adjustments in how we go about our daily lives. Google will need to cultivate an app ecosystem for Google Glass just as it has done for Android phones and tablets. More importantly, though, using them will change the way we interact with each other and the way we view the world as we walk, drive or just look around. I’m sure we’ll see substantial initial sales by early adopters, and the impact of augmented reality in general will be massive over the next decade and beyond. But I’m skeptical we’ll see mainstream adoption in the next two or three years.