Should Marketers Care about Google Glass?

Image by Ars Electronica

Image by Ars Electronica

The buzz about Google Glass, a form of wearable computing, reached zeitgeist status after SxSW. Now mainstream media is picking up the hype drum for a product that won’t even be released until next year. Should marketers care?

It’s a very reasonable question, and there may be two answers.

First, marketers should care, not necessarily about Glass, but what the device represents.

Wearable computing promises to take ubiquitous mobile Internet access and layer unprecedented information into our day-to-day existence. Commonly called augmented reality, users can interact in two ways: Sharing and accessing information anywhere.

It’s likely that wearing the Internet will bring incredible utility, particularly to mobile workforces and those of us who find ourselves out about frequently. If successful, Glass or other forms of wearable computing could render the mobile phone irrelevant.

Another outcome will be a reduced reliance on text. Voice communications, from search via Siri to social updates will dominate wearable computing. After all, typing while wearing Glass doesn’t seem easy.

This last point is not something to fantasize about. Losing text as a primary search and input method will shake up both the PR and advertising sectors, and put a stronger emphasis on visual and audio communications. All those Instagram posts and YouTube videos will become even more powerful.

With great new technology, we will have different challenges.
The below video from my xPotomac speech with Patrick Ashamalla really dives into the future impact from a writing and design standpoint. Context becomes crucial for mobile marketing as people move about their wearable computing enabled lives.

But Should We Care about Glass?

Now on to the second answer. As far as the actual Google Glass product goes, marketers should take a wait and see approach.

The reality is that the price is extremely high, at this point $1500 for a first generation device.

Until Glass devices are bought and worn — and the average consumer actually likes using it — this is just the next geek fad. The likeability factor is highly subjective. If normal consumers enjoy it, demand will increase and prices will drop with the arrival of competing devices and scale.

In actuality, a different device may be the right form factor. So perhaps a wrist watch or other wearable device is the most acceptable form factor. Remember how many MP3 players failed before the iPod made portable digital music storage a reality?

MP3 Evolution by tmray02

MP3 Evolution by tmray02

Just to emphasize the point that a wearable computer as a pair of glasses may not be the right form factor, VoucherCodes, a fashion market research org, found that 51% of youth aged 18-24 would not buy Google Glass EVEN if it was priced affordably.

Indeed, the Silicon Valley hype machine may very well be out of control on the bath water. But not the baby.

What do you think about the Glass Project?

This post is an update of an older blog, “How will Project Glass Impact Marketers?” This update ran originally on the Vocus blog.