Is the launch hype of Google Glass enough to drop the 'glasshole' stigma?

Ian Brennan, head of technical concepting at digital agency AnalogFolk London - who have been testing Glass for the past few months - delves into whether the £1,000 wearable device will deliver any real world value to brands as it launches in the UK this week.

Virgin Atlantic is using Google Glass
Virgin Atlantic is using Google Glass

Google has released Glass into the UK wilderness, and anyone with a spare £1,000 can now purchase one via the Google Play Store. Glass is a wearable computer, and projects a small amount of information onto a screen just above your right eye. It’s not as feature rich as a smartphone, and designed more as a companion to your daily Candy Crush machine.

What Glass offers Virgin Atlantic is priceless - in the hyper competitive world of flying, being seen to be first is king

Early adopters of the technology have commonly reported problems with battery life, limited functionality, privacy concerns, as well as self consciousness/fashion concerns. That last issue is perhaps the biggest sticking point that brands will face when trying to adapt Glass into their public offering.

Some however, have already started to use it. Virgin Atlantic has adopted the technology to help greet their Upper Class passengers when arriving at the airport. In fact, the airline is promoting it as the second most important selling point about the Upper Class experience, ahead of lay flat beds, fine dining, and exclusive airport lounges

Why is this? Is it because Google Glass is so good that those spending thousands of pounds of an airline ticket will be impressed? In part, yes.

Google Glass doesn’t really offer the Virgin Atlantic staff anything more than a very basic flight departure board hovering above their right eye. But what it offers the brand is priceless. In the hyper competitive world of flying, being seen to be first is king. Greeting high net-worth customers with an experience that is perceived to help them get through the painful experience of checking in quicker is a big win for the brand.

Mercedes-Benz calls the experience 'digital living', as it aims to merge the experience of driving with other real-world tasks

Mercedes-Benz has also been prototyping uses for Google Glass, and recently that manifested itself as a door-to-door navigation system. The idea being that the car navigates for you while driving, and then Glass takes over when you finish your journey on foot. They are calling the experience "digital living", and Mercedes is aiming to merge the experience of driving with other real-world tasks.

We have had Google Glass in the AnalogFolk office for a few months now and our technical thinkers have started to examine its potential. Like Virgin Atlantic, there is an opportunity for high street brands to use the technology to help customers through the shopping experience. Bringing up price, stock, and sizing information directly on the floor of a large department store could really enhance the experience of the customer.

Beyond the Glass

Of course it doesn’t just have to be useful branded applications for users of Google Glass.

Kenneth Cole was the first brand to use a Google Glass app in its marketing. They ran a campaign called "Man Up for Mankind Challenge", where they encouraged men to perform different gentlemanly tasks each day while recording them on their Google Glass device. The camera on the device captured a great first person view of the good deed taking place, and the subsequent reactions on the recipients face.

Is it going to be enough to drop the ‘glasshole’ stigma, and warrant consumers parting with £1,000?

With Google Glass now no longer reserved for beta-testers, and officially on general sale in both the UK and US, it’s time to see whether the wearable has a place among the many. Or whether it stays as a curious device that only a few ever use.

But like Virgin Atlantic, Mercedes-Benz, and Kenneth Cole, there is an opportunity for brands to be associated with this new movement, and piggy back the wave of interest it generates. The question is, is it going to be enough to drop the ‘glasshole’ stigma, and warrant consumers parting with £1,000. Intriguing times lay ahead.

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