Google Glass: Revolutionary or Just Evolutionary?

For the past week, Google has been running their #IfIHadGlass contest, in which consumers explain why they deserve to be one of the first to purchase Glass (price tag: $1500). The contest has certainly stirred public anticipation of the product, and we’re as curious as you to know just how great Glass will be - in real life.

So it got us thinking: Revolutionary, life-changing product... or just an evolutionary step up the proverbial product ladder?

Glass is the sexy name for the “smart glasses” - kudos to the Google product team (remove the -es – who woulda thunk it?) Essentially, it's a voice-activated, streamlined headpiece with functionality barely exceeding a GoPro camera – completely missing out on all the bells and whistles of smartphone functionality. Glass runs on an Android operating system, uses 3G or 4G data connections, and has a tiny screen equipped with motion sensors (according to the New York Times). It can be connected to a smartphone, but doesn't have to be.

When phones became wireless, things changed. When cameras were integrated into phones, things changed. When phones were equipped with GPS, things changed. When the iPhone was introduced, it revolutionized the mobile (and computer) playing field. The iPhone broke apart the carrier-centric structure of the wireless industry and unlocked a host of benefits for consumers, developers, manufacturers and carriers. The iPhone became a “go-anywhere computer,” creating a technology warfront against all other mobile and computer devices. And that battle rages on as we continue to see evolutionary items like tablets, and now, with Glass, mobile devices for your face. So how does Glass change things? Hmmm...

Just the Next Step on the Ladder: What Glass Can and Cannot Do

As it stands, the first version of Google Glass that will be released to #IfIHadGlass winners won’t be able to give GPS-based directions, translate languages or upload the schedule for the local transit system. Instead, users will be able to snap instant pictures and videos, upload them to Google+, send and receive texts, and video chat with other Google users.

The main benefits are the “hands-always-free” aspect (thanks to voice control) and the ability to snap a picture or record a video before the moment passes. Cool? Ok, we can admit that. Revolutionary? Hardly.

Note to the masses: Now you don’t have to put your fork down when taking pictures of your food! Duct taping an iPhone to a pair of sunglasses will give you more functionality than Glass.

Glass: The Next Generation (still loading)

Love the promo video! Google's marketing is reminiscent of the old AT&T commercial promising the "Fiber Future." So if Glass already offered all the bells and whistles mocked-up in the original video, it could boast some of the biggest practical improvements to the mobile industry.

There’s disconnect between the “hype perspective” that Glass is receiving and what the actual product (albeit the prototype) has to offer. Most likely, the excitement is actually directed at the future possibilities of Glass: augmented reality, specifically. But once Glass makes augmented reality into a reality – is that a game changer? Some would argue that it’s merely a redesigned smart phone.

The Final Word

As of now, Glass leaves a lot to be desired. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as the Google minds work toward a true augmented reality device. But how drastically will Glass really change the workings of the world? Are the incremental improvements of “hands-always-free” and not having to say “wait, let me get my camera” really going to change the way people communicate? Will Glass revolutionize the tech industry or just be an accessory fad? Will Glass change the way people go about their daily lives?

Google Glass may look like the future, but its functionality is still stuck in the present. Our advice: Save your $1500 – at least, for now. But if you do win and spend the money, at least you’ll get to attend a cool Google "pick-up" ceremony at one of three designated places: NY, LA and SanFran (at your expense, of course).

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