Is Google Glass the Segway of this era?

Not so long ago Mike Butcher (from Techcrunch) tried on a pair of Google Glass lent to him by a Glass Explorer at a conference and even though his experience with Glass was rather short he made a conclusion that nailed it for me:

“So Google Glass for me will be this era’s Segway: hyped as a game changer but ultimately used by warehouse workers and mall cops.”

I had a chance to buy a Google Glass 5-6 months ago when the original Google Explorers were allowed to invite 3 friends to join the program. As managing partner for digital at Duval Guillaume, I need and want to be on top of major tech innovations and Glass is definitely one of those things. So I volunteered immediately and made some arrangements to be able to buy it whilst not completely following the standard procedure. You have to be a US resident for instance which I’m not. But that was pretty easy to overcome. So I got my Google Glass pretty soon after and once it was all set up (which was pretty easy) I started playing around with it.

At first I was in awe. The little projection screen of Google Glass is crisp, the voice & touch controls are very intuitive and simple to get familiar with and it’s pretty impressive what it can do. It’s the same when you share that experience with others, every time one of my friends or colleagues put on Google Glass and performed some of the main key tasks they were amazed with the result. That and the jealousy of some to get hold of their own.

I took some really great pictures of the rising sun while driving my car, got directions pointed out to a unknown shop while walking in the city, watched Youtube video’s after searching them via voice commands, shared Facebook updates also via voice, … A lot of nice things actually. But then there’s also a problem. There are a few, like battery time for instance (which is worse than on a smartphone). But that’s not the real problem.

The real problem is that actually wearing it makes you look weird – or at least different enough for people to notice. It doesn’t look natural and so people will make a comment about it. They either know what it is and want to try it, or worse, want you to take it off, like if you’re constantly filming people. Or people don’t know what it is and think you look ridiculous. And you can’t blame them because you know you look ridiculous with the glasses on.

And if people ask what the benefits are and you tell them, they will tell you all of that’s also possible with your smartphone. With the difference you don’t have the take it out of your pocket, but then again you don’t have to wear those strange glasses all the time. And indeed, there’s not much you can bring into that. Because there are very few moments that you can say that you couldn’t possible reach for your phone, in which case Google Glass really was beneficial to you.

And for that Mike’s comment makes a lot of sense. When it makes no real difference to use Google Glass or your smartphone for the same tasks, the smartphone is still a winner. But when you’re a policeman, or a flight attendant, a medic, … and you need your hands for other things then the Glass makes total sense. Therefore it cannot come as a surprise that NYPD is testing Google Glass or Virgin Atlantic.

I’m not sure how the final Google Glass will go to market nor when that will happen. But it still needs massive change before people will adopt it because it don’t think it is appealing enough to the masses how it is right now. Let alone the price tag of course, you can buy yourself some pretty sweet smartphones for USD 1.500.

Don’t get me wrong by the way, I’m still pretty happy to have one and I will keep testing the device for quite some more time. It does help to get insights on where wearables might go to and it still is pretty amazing if you’re willing to unthink the fact that you are wearing empty glasses with a battery pack on the side. Let’s see what comes next.

Note – I wrote this on the plane about a week ago, since then Google announced Android Wear which subsequently makes a lot more sense to me than the Glass does for the moment. Or maybe I should just wait until we see what RayBan is going to make of it.

The “Basket of Remotes” Problem

Jean-Louis Gassée brought up an interesting challenge or issue with regards to the current hype around the Internet of Things:

It’s actually a very simple thought when you come to think of it but one that I thought is very true and relevant. Because indeed, the idea of all these connected devices in your home that need to be ‘operated’ via some kind of remote is all great but knowing that we haven’t been able to fix this for television in the last 50 years is something to think about.

“Indeed, so-called “smart” TVs are unable to provide a machine-readable description of the commands they understand (an XML file, also readable by a human, would do). We can’t stand in front of a TV with a “fresh” universal remote – or a smartphone app – touch the Learn button and have the TV wirelessly ship the list of commands it understands…and so on to the next appliance, security system or, if you insist, fridge and toaster. If an appliance would yield its control and reporting data, an app developer could build a “control center” that would summarize and manage your networked devices. But in the Consumer IoT world, we’re still very far from this desirable state of affairs. A TV can’t even tell a smartphone app if it’s on, what channel it’s tuned to, or which devices is feeding it content. For programmable remotes, it’s easy to get lost as too many TVs don’t even know a command such as Input 2, they only know Next Input. If a human changes the input by walking to the device and pushing a button, the remote is lost. (To say nothing of TVs that don’t have separate On and Off commands, only an On/Off toggle, with the danger of getting out of sync – and no way for the TV to talk back and describe its state…)”

We’re clearly not there yet. I wonder if it isn’t because both hardware and software manufacturers are increasingly investing in their own controlled and often closed ecosystems which implicates that little to no enterprises will be interested in opening up to this idea of 2-way thinking.

And also the idea that the phone will be the one and only device to rule everything in the future is an idea which I doubt will be realistic in the near future as I’ve written before.

How to make the mobile phone a social object again?

I did a talk about mobile in marketing at the Mobile Convention Brussels today. It’s not the first time I write about social objects or social currency on this blog, but in the case of mobile the device itself is in essence a social object. It allows us to connect with people, remember Nokia’s claim? And going from Dumbphone to Feature Phone to Smartphone (and yes I like these retronyms) the connections have multiplied. More tech, more possibilities and more people to connect to. Fantastic.

But at the same time we disconnect with the people in front of us. Research shows that already 10% of all Smartphone users feel the urge to check their phone every 5 minutes (!) and in another study 33% of parents admit that their phone and/or tablet was a sore point with kids. And yes I think we all recognize the images I used on slide 7. It’s no wonder the term ‘phubbing‘ was invented: the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention. Rings a bell?

Maybe Einstein was right:

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

So the mobile phone is a social object. Literally because it allows us to connect with people around the world. And it isn’t a social object, thinking about the definition we use for that in the conversation economy because it doesn’t trigger conversations, on the contrary. So there’s an opportunity in marketing to make the mobile phone a real social object, to use it to trigger conversation. To use it in a way it’s not the object itself that matters but the conversations around it.

Like we tried to do with “Reborn Apps”, the campaign for organ donation that won a gold Cannes Lions at this year’s festival.

Or also with older cases like “A Blind Call” or “Baby Connection“. These projects are not only there for conversion (which is also an objective of course) but are created mainly to kickstart conversations.

A few things to keep in mind when you want to use mobile to create social objects:

  1. Digital is not about technology. There’s little technology involved in the case of Reborn Apps for instance, it’s not by focusing on the tech that you will find the great ideas. And sometimes technology can spur fantastic ideas obviously and also that can be a good briefing, but in general it’s not where you start to find the answer to your problems.
  2. Context is key. Also here way too often that is immediately translated into technology, into things such as responsive design for instance in which responsive is just a way of saying how the design adapts to ‘every’ screen. I think that’s limiting ourselves, context is about which device, when, for what purpose, by whom, … and responsive design should be about a way of designing experiences that keep all of that into account.
  3. Find a unique (provocative) insight. I’m planning on doing a separate write down on the ‘provocative insight’ and how we defined that at Duval Guillaume Modem. The important thing to remember is that you need an insight that has a bit more edge to it, that people have an opinion on if you want it to generate those kind of creative ideas that will provoke conversations.
  4. Tap into real human emotions. It’s what makes it situations, projects, products, advertising, … recognisable. You can image yourself into a certain situation, you can immediately see how something like that could also happen to you. It makes it all so much more powerful.
  5. Make it irreverent. Challenge the status quo. Don’t accept things to be like everyone says they should be, don’t take things too seriously, think the opposite. When everybody zigs, zag.

Note: http://www.stopphubbing.com is on its own also a social object, the verb phubbing was created by McCann Melbourne (yes the guys from ‘Dumb Ways to Die‘) as a campaign for a dictionary. Great job from my buddy John Mescall and his team!

Is your smartphone becoming too smart for its own good?

The feature phone. A ‘new’ name for something that exists for a long time already just so we can differentiate it from the more recent forms or versions, as so called retronym. Because that’s what it is, for people my age we used to refer to the feature phone just as a mobile or cell phone. That’s until the smartphone came along and before we all started using that.

It wasn’t just a phone with a contact list that was stored on your SIM card (and limited to a certain number of people), the smartphone was also a camera and would have a browser to surf the internet etc. And the smartphone only got smarter and smarter over time. Today you can have a phone that is a very good alternative to a lot of digital cameras, it’s packed full with apps that can do the most amazing things like track your running, sync all your documents over the cloud, recognize music, program your DVR, and a whole more.

And it doesn’t look like we have reached the end of all smartphone smartness. The new iPhone has a fingerprint scanner, another step in the process of our phone becoming a key. A key to our data of course, but also a key to our house or our car? It’s only a matter of time. With the right apps and add-ons your smartphone is also becoming a payment device and since it can also already hold your tickets, vouchers, loyalty cards it will replace your wallet. It is also becoming a health appliance, you can use it to geo-locate people or items, etc etc. And of course let’s not forget the camera, a pretty damn good camera these days.

What’s more, it’ll drive most of the content and functionality of your smartwatch, of your smart (Google) glasses, … the smartphone is replacing so many things and powering just as many other things that it is becoming incredibly powerful.

Awesome. And at the same time a problem. Since the battery life of the phone hasn’t evolved as much as the feature set and actually is getting worse with every OS update, the all-in-one promise of the smartphone is a dream. Just like most of you I am using my iPhone for quite simple tasks – calling, email, agenda, todo, a bit of social and the camera. And I cannot make it last a full day. And if I’m at an event at which I do more photography than usual than I’m out of power before 5PM and I cannot make any calls anymore.

So the idea of using the smartphone to its full power is unreal today. And since everything is in there at some point you will lock yourself out of your house and you don’t have the ability to call anyone for help. Nor can you pay anyone to fix your problem. Am I exaggerating? Probably. But the problem is there. How much I love the idea of using the iPhone for all the things mentioned before, the device needs to change drastically before I actually will lock all these things into this one single device.

Your thoughts?

The #ASS of Kris Hoet

Okay, I’ll admit, Tom De Bruyne made me do it. About a week ago Tom and Astrid – founding partners of Sue Amsterdam – organized The Awesome Slideshow in Boom Chicago (Amsterdam):

“10 inspiring speakers from the creative industry share their favorite stuff they
found on Twitter. Get inspired in one afternoon with a top-selection of awesome
ideas, thoughts, actions and campaigns.”

Hashtag for the event: #TheASS. Here’s my presentation and underneath you will find a little bit of background with the video’s, why I chose them for this presentation. (Video’s are all in the presentation)

Do mess with perfection. It’s the campaign line of the new Ford Mustang (check out their app btw) and I chose it because it’s more in tune with the idea I have around experimenting than the often used “fail harder” line. Why? Because “fail harder” all to often seems to result in a mediocre output and I don’t think that’s right. Do mess with perfection does a better job at making sure you experiment but with the end goal to make something awesome. Not mediocre. What do you think “fail harder” would look like in Jeb Corliss’ stunt? Therefore the ‘Grinding the crack’ video.

Big data. I love data. Not like an analyst or a statistics guy but because of what you can learn from data… if you’re looking at the right thing. Data visualizations are very welcome in helping you understand data – and then I don’t mean all these 15.000 pixel long infographics that show up on a daily base. I used some examples in my presentation, once including a tool you can download here: IOgraphica.

Gamification. Not games. Not contest. But fun game inspired elements to deploy on real life. Like what they did in Chromorama with the London Subway.

Known + Unknown. What happens when you combine knowledge from offline shopping behavior with online analytics methods. Awesome this Shopperception video – again see presentation.

Hackable. Kinect showed us once more, almost all year long, that you’re better off making things so that people can explore beyond the initial purpose of what it was made for to begin with. It might inspire everyone.

Laughter from nowhere. Kevin Slavin learned us to look at second screen in a totally different way, too bad his presentation from last year’s Think Digital congress isn’t online where he talked about that. I used the example from Clik just to show that most of our second screen thinking is really too basic.

The world is our canvas. Although the example in the presentation is a quite literal example, the point I wanted to make was that there are no more limitations to what we can do, that ‘out of the box thinking’ has never been so valid as today. There is no frame, the world is our canvas.

DIY 2.0 3D printers, open source code, Arduino, … it’s incredible what people like you can me can make today. We already have more democratic ways of promoting ourselves – thank you web 2.0 – but today we also see the same principles being used to fund as well as fabricate ideas. And that’s awesome.

The last video – of Casey Neistat, yes the same guy that made that Nike video – because it’s fun and it reminds us that everyone with a good idea can get noticed.

Key take away – It always seems impossible until it is done. Something we remind ourselves of at the agency as well every time someone presents us with an idea that looks impossible :-)

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Another week, another tablet

For about 10 days now I switched my iPad for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to see how they compare – thanks to Belgacom. First things first, this is the first version of the 10.1 (now renamed to 10.1v), there’s a newer one coming on the market that has the same name but is slightly thinner than this one.

The hardware specs on this tablet are quite impressive. It has a 1280×800 screen resolution, runs Android Honeycomb 3.0, has an 8 megapixel camera (that doubles as 1080p HD video recorder), Wifi and 3G and a 1 GHz dual-core processor. That all weighs just under 600 g making it a bit lighter than the original iPad (it’s also a bit smaller).

What do I like about it?

First of all – nice screen, solid battery, powerful, … everything you expect from a tablet that wants to be a serious competitor to the iPad. Getting the basics right is obviously crucial in this game so no remarks there.

It’s my first real experience with Honecomb and I must say that I was rather pleased with the result. It’s an intuitive experience and something I like about Android in general is that you can add more than just app icons to your screen. The widgets for recent browser history for instance is one that I use quite often and.

The tablet came with a data subscription and I was surprised by the loading speed in both browser as well as with downloads from the Android Market place when on 3G. It’s definitely faster then the data connection Mobistar currently offers on my iPhone.

Flash. You sort of learn to navigate around Flash enabled websites when you’re surfing on the iPad but it’s still annoying when trying to consult a webpage that cannot be displayed due to the no-Flash policy of Apple when it comes to mobile. The Samsung’s browser displays Flash just like you’re used to and that still is a nice surplus.

Last but not least

What can be improved?

I like the more solid, the more polished feel of the iPad. The Galaxy Tab feels a bit more plastic but as mentioned before it’s probably the reason why it weighs less as well.

What needs most improvement in my opinion has more to do with Android Honeycomb than with the device itself. Unlike with the iPad you cannot see which apps on the Android Market are built for tablets, meaning that most apps you download are regular Android apps. Those are decent apps – nothing against that – but they don’t use the screen estate like they should. Similar with the browser as most websites detect your device as a mobile device, defaulting to the mobile phone experience. You will have to switch to desktop version to get the full advantage of the tablet. Since that is a change you can make it’s just a little annoyance, the differentiation for Android and Android Honeycomb in the Android Market is something I would like to see changed soon though.

Overall pretty decent result and definitely worth checking out in my opinion.

[Disclaimer: Belgacom provided the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v to me including SIM with data subscription]

Apple iSad

I was just reading this:

“Apple issued a cease and desist letter to Newsday regarding their iPad app commercial. The commercial essentially showed how the iPad can’t completely replace newspapers as the screen will shatter when your hit flies with it. Long story short, Apple doesn’t want their iPad’s glass getting shattered as a newspaper app commercial.”

Is that true? Because of this ad?

You have to be kidding. Really Apple, sometimes you can be so small. Small-minded that is.

My issue with the iPad

It’s not about the lack of Flash support. Although you visit less sites in their mobile version (if available) on the iPad thus the lack of Flash support is a bigger pain than on the iPhone, I knew what I was getting into when I bought one. Nor is it the lack of multi-tasking capabilities, I’m sure once iOS4 arrives on the iPad we will have that (kinda) sorted out. And also the fact that there are only few really good iPad apps is an issue (for now). There may as well be several thousand apps available (250.000 if you count all iPhone apps), we all know most of them are rubbish.

My issue is with the OS. It still is a big phone, without the phone functionalities then… probably to avoid situations like this to happen. Now a mobile phone typically is a very personal piece of technology. You don’t just hand to someone else to toy with it, it’s yours and personal. And that’s where the problem lies, for me the iPad isn’t personal. Not like the iPhone (or any other mobile phone for that matter). My wife and I both have our own mobiles but it’s rather unlikely that I we will get a second iPad, we both use it. But since it’s built on a mobile OS, it’s not really built for multiple users. There’s no need for that on a phone but it means that on the iPad there’s a primary user next to other people that can also use it. But not in the same way.

Still don’t see the problem? I really enjoy Flipboard, so does my wife. But it’s logged in with my Twitter/Facebook accounts so she cannot really enjoy that part. I could add her email account(s) to the iPad but then those would be visible to both of us, that’s not really what you want. And we try and beat each other on playing Mahjong but since there’s only one high score, it impossible to tell (remember) who it was from. It would enable me to personalize the iPad for the kids when they use it as well. With us, the iPad is typically lying around in the living room for anyone in the family to use when they feel like it. But since I’m the primary user (and the geek – yes, that too) it’s mainly setup towards my needs. I find that a missed opportunity.

It would be great to see the iOS for iPad change in a way you can have a user login upfront, similar to what we are used to on our PCs/Macs. Or the possibility to switch between users, all to get a more personal experience on a multi-user/shared device. I’m afraid that is not going to happen (soon) so maybe in that case it’s worth asking the developers of Flipboard, Reeder, Mahjong, … to implement the possibility to switch between users in the app itself. Less ideal, but it would still solve my issue with the iPad.

WordPress 2 for iPhone

Trying out the new WordPress 2 app in the iPhone. IT beats me why this is a new app and not an upgrade to the v1 of which I had already but anyway the app looks handy and a good step up from the first version. Two things I still miss are the lack of access to your stats such as you can see at http://m.wordpress.com and … there is no more second point since inserting link just now takes away the comment I wanted to make related to the lack of an easy way to add links :)

Looks nice, now hit publish.

SpotMe or SpyMe?

At the Creativity World Forum this week, all attendees were given SpotMe devices: The All-In-One Participant Communication Tool (I got that last bit of their website obviously).

“Spotme combines social networking via a searchable photo database, messaging, people radar, unique “Spotting” function and electronic business card exchange, with audience response, Q&A sessions, messaging, lead retrieval, attendance tracking, electronic feedback forms (and more) to create the only all-in-one communication service for events of all sorts – from 200 to 5000 participants.“

And here’s a video of the gizmo:

Hey and I like gizmos so I was very curious about this after I found out the CWF would make use of it. And truth to be told, it has some interesting features, and first thing after I checked into the conference and retrieved my SpotMe device, I started toying with it and started looking in the contactlist for people to ‘spot’, people I wanted to meet. It didn’t take long for the first alert that someone I wanted to meet was in my neighborhood… according to the device, as I couldn’t find that person. Nor could I the next time that happened.

But you can also send each other messages, something I soon found out was not actually real time as it would ‘queue’ the message for you so worthless to say “come and see me by the stairs on the left” if that message would only be sent maybe 10, 15 minutes later. You just don’t know.

There’s also some practical issues. SpotMe has a nicely designed interface, but pretty much everybody assumes it’s a touch interface and it’s not. I’ve also seen plenty of people (especially in the beginning) that have no idea there’s a keypad underneath the screen. And lastly, I’m not so sure about the ‘rubbing devices’ idea for sharing business cards, nor ‘shake it’ idea to send live feedback about what’s on right now.

I also started wondering about privacy. You exchange business cards electronically with the people you meet using SpotMe, which they are supposed to send after the event. Sounds good to me, but what else would they track. I’m not sure if they do (although the description above implies they do at least to some extend) but the technology would allow to track a lot. It allows them to see where you have been all day? Plenary room, reception area, expo, … for how long, who’s been around you, who you wanted to meet and who you’ve actually met, … A whole bunch of data comes out. Some quite harmless, but probably not all. Very curious about that.

Last but not least, why didn’t it offer internet access? Or even better, why a different device anyway? I know it uses RFID, but isn’t there any way we can solve this same problem using our cell phones in some way? For me the SpotMe device became a large digital program, something that a lot of conferences today already offer as a mobile webpage.

Overall, I’m glad I could check it out, I do believe it helps solving a problem but I’m not convinced it’s doing that the right way yet and I would wish to find out more about the privacy questions. Fact is that CWF was great on content but I wasn’t able to do good networking (other than with people I already knew) and SpotMe didn’t change any of that.