An article on Wired is comparing Google Glass — Google’s “wearable computer” — to the Segway; shunning Glass as “too dorky to live.” According to the article’s author, Marcus Wohlsen, guys like these serve as “the data needed to transform the hypothesis: ‘Google Glass is too dorky to succeed’ into a proven scientific theory.” Hamish McKenzie with Pandodaily on the other hand, disagrees, and rightfully so.
McKenzie points out the crucial difference between Glass and the Segway; the Segway has one purpose (transportation) that isn’t properly supported by its current framework. Glass has many purposes and it happens to be perfectly supported by the framework on which it depends (the Internet). In fact, Glass actually enhances that framework by making it more available and transportable.
“While the Segway is just a connection between rider and road, Glass is a connection to other people, video, photos, and timely and contextual information. As much as it is a dorky thing to wear on your face, it is also a portal to discovery,” McKenzie writes.
Wohlsen seems to believe that the reason most of us don’t own a Segway is because they’re “too rational.” In fact, the reason most people don’t own a Segway is just the opposite: they’re expensive, slow, cumbersome, single-person, limited cargo, limited range etc. The problem isn’t how fashionable (or unfashionable) the Segway is; it’s about utility versus value.
A car protects you from wind and rain, cold and heat, and from harm in collisions. It has a speed range of 0 to 100+ miles per hour and a range of hundreds of miles. A Segway, on the other hand, offers no protection from weather or collisions, has a top speed of 12.5 mph, and a range of 6 to 10 miles. Utility versus value.
The point is that technology does not fail or succeed based on its initial “dorkiness.” It fails or succeeds based on its real world value, which plays out over time. Although comparing the Segway to Glass is clever and cute, “dorkiness” has nothing to do with success or failure of technology; while usefulness has everything to do with it.
Segways didn’t catch on not because they were dorky, (although that was probably what pushed most people over the edge) but because they solved the wrong problem. People don’t use cars to just avoid walking; they use them to stay dry, carry their crap and friends around, feel safe on the streets and in public transport etc. Segway doesn’t solve any of these problems.
What’s more, Wohlsen makes the mistake of assuming that what Glass looks like today is what it will look like forever. He fails to recognize that Glass is an experiment. In time, it will become smaller, faster, smarter and cooler — similar to the way most of all technology has evolved … the automobile, the computer, the cell phone etc. With the way technology evolves, Glass will be indistinguishable from normal glasses in 10 years (or, ocular implants), and will be a thousand times more functional from the software side of things.
I imagine the use for Glass as similar to my phone and sunglasses — pull it out when needed, have it accessible at most times but "stowed away" at other times, like my phone and my sunglasses. Eventually, there will be enough nerds and rich people buying these things to create an economy and the technology will get small enough to eventually be embedded into a sweet pair of Oakleys.
If Glass can provide something that no other device can and at a reasonable price, they will be adopted and style will change around them. But like the iPhone, Glass will likely become successful because of what developers will do with it. Apple never predicted all of the apps and uses that took advantage of the technology embedded in the iPhone. Glass will probably be the same way.
Besides, even if Glass doesn’t become a huge hit with the general public, I could see it being used for hundreds of professions (surgeons, home inspectors, reporters, teachers … etc.) or at least becoming a toy for rich people. So stop hating on Google Glass, people. There’s nothing wrong with it as a technological experiment. What matters is that the future will include some kind of wearable smart technology, and it’s important and cool for Google to be experimenting in that direction.