Yesterday was a big day. Americans paid their taxes, but that is old news, and not sexy at all. The truth is, is was a big day for Googlers and tech lovers alike: Most specifically because yesterday was the one-day, hot-off-the-press (conveyor belt) sale of Google Glass!
The deal of the day ($1,500) yielded you a coveted pair of Google Glasses, the space-age eyeglass frame of the future -- or is it?
Some folks will sign up just because they can. Kind of a show-off-y "I can afford it, even if I don't need it" pure acquisition badge. Other folks, like TechnoGeeks, will have to get a pair just to see what it does and how it works!
But like its cousins, Google Plus and Google Hangouts, Google Glass seems destined to be disappointing. Perhaps it is best expressed with the words used by 1950s actress Shelley Winters to describe her occasional lover Marlon Brando: "All promise and no delivery."
Just what does Google Glass promise?
Everything. The hype: "Be Active. Explore Your World. Live Lighter."
Hmm... What exactly does this mean?
"Be Active: Designed for those on the move." The images presented with this declaration are of running, biking, weight-lifting and golf. Aside from the amazingly hot biker in the first pic, the target audience is clear: older, not-so-cool billionaire types. After all, who else golfs? Think Donald Trump.
To lump biking and running in with golf is just plain... how can I say it? Odd.
"Explore your World: Made for the Open Road." This photo collage includes a private jet, mountain hiker, Swiss Alps ski resort, and images of three cities: Paris, New York, San Francisco -- in that order. Target audience? Think Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, sort-of-cool geeky billionaire types.
"Live Lighter: Never Miss a Moment." Here is where the appeal branches out slightly, yet is equally obvious: well-heeled, younger, urban male hipsters. A baby, healthy foodie images, San Francisco rush hour traffic, a reference to Mashable and, for the first time on Glass pages, men of color.
Google Glass target audience in a nutshell? Wall Street and Silicon Valley urban millionaires, billionaires, gazillionaires and wannabes, age 30-70, who like wearing their FitBit/iPhones on their heads.
What does Google Glass deliver?
I am glad you asked! The best features I note from their website is its GPS for bikers (not being a billionaire myself, I don't know firsthand). This could be a very useful tool if you are competing in a 100-plus mile bike race or training for one. Also, the "Improve your golf game" specs seem helpful for the clubby Palm Beach and Boca sets.
Other than that, the "new" Google Glass fails to deliver anything new. Basically, Glass has all the features of a smartphone in an eyeglass frame. I am not sure about this, but it might be somewhat distracting and therefore dangerous when going 30 to 40 miles per hour downhill on your Lynskey Titanium 11-speed to see visual images flashing in front of your eyes.
With the gazillions of cash that Google has, the "smartest" people in the room, and the endless resources to experiment with new technologies, how come the kid down the street is more innovative than this once-awesome tech giant?
Is it because Google has now become the thing it never wanted to be: a typically bloated corporation with more focus on profit than purpose? That would be a far cry from its early IPO days a mere decade ago.
Or perhaps Google no longer hires out-of-the-box thinkers. Hiring Ivy League grads and their college roommates isn't the most effective way to discover new talent. The innovators today are more often found in startup coworking communities from the Bronx to St Louis to Detroit. Some might still be in high school or at a state college, or even college dropouts. They are everywhere that Google isn't looking.
Also, aside from the remarkable lack of innovation that Google Glass reveals, it is clearly a new toy geared to rich male professionals from promotion to product. Unless Glass expands its reach to do something really new and universally useful for all income levels, it will be relegated to the shelves of the Sharper Image Tech museum for the bored executive.
A Harvard cognitive neuroscience abstract proposes that in our current environment of digital innovation including video games, smartphones and tablets: "Events happen faster, objects move more quickly, peripheral processing is placed at a premium, and the number of items that need to be kept track of far exceeds the circumstances experienced in normal life."
The study asks: "Is it possible to extend the normal processing power of the human nervous system?" It further explores what the practical significance of "enhanced perceptual capabilities" might be and whether that could "lead to measurable benefits in day-to-day living."
Here is a thought for Google Glass: What about computerized glasses that record everything around us that we either see or don't see, or simply don't register? What if these eyeglasses could help us process the information we take in visually significantly faster? Instead of registering 30 frames per second (fps), we can process 100fps or more? It could be useful for police work, military personnel, stroke victims, the elderly, vision impaired or to simply train ourselves to be more cognizant of our surroundings. Perhaps it could improve individual driving skills or give athletes opportunities to avoid injuries. Now, that would be interesting!
So the question remains, if you are not an avid golfer or bike racer, is Google Glass at $1,500 a pop a good investment?
You betcha! But not because it adds real value in its current state to anyone's life, but because by this time next week, chances are you will be able to see it on eBay at two or three times that price. Further, in five to 10 years, long after it is recognized as the incredible technical flop and waste of cash that it is for investors, ordinary folks like you and me can auction our April 15, 2014, pairs at Sotheby's to Silicon Valley collectors with a spare $100,000 to add to a long list of once ingenious, now remarkable, Google failures.
Follow Monika Mitchell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/monika_mitchell