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.

Want something new? Ask a talent without experience.

About a year ago one of the founders of the agency Duval Guillaume I work for wrote a post in which I recognized myself quite a lot. I looked it up again this week since I was recently contacted to help on an innovative project which in the end didn’t go through as the prospect ended up going for someone with a long life experience in the industry they were in. And I didn’t think that was a particularly good choice. Especially since that industry has seen only little innovation in the last decades, so why chose one with a lot of experience in that industry for an innovative project? Still don’t get it.

Guillaume wrote a good post about this ‘phenomenon’ after getting similar questions from advertisers at the time he was still in the agency:

“How many times advertisers have asked me: "do your people have experience in our market?". I would answer: "Why? You want them to do the same as all the others?" When your prospect has a yoghurt brand, they’ll be so happy to hear you’ve worked for Danone or Nestlé. Even if you were only running around with coffee in the same building. They need it as reassurance. They want to make sure that you understand the yoghurt consuming human being. Actually, what they want is that you understand the Danone or Nestlé eating consumer and if you say yes, you’ll be doing me-too ads for a couple of years, until your prospect has decided it is time for someone else with the experience.”

He also made a good analogy with nature to explain even more why this isn’t a good idea:

“I use an example from nature to explain this phenomena and a solution. Listen to the frogs on a summer night. The frogs call. What they actually do is trying to get selected by a sexual partner. The frog that produces the most decibels probably has the best genes for the offspring. What happens after a while is that the frogs synchronize their calls. It gives them all individually the feeling they are loud callers. Just like small brands, they are happy to be part of something bigger. Off course, it misses its effect, because it will only confirm the big frog’s dominance. But keep listening, and you’ll see nature has found a solution to this. While all the frogs croak together, one little frog croaks off synch.

CRRRROAK!! croack. CRRRROAK!! croack

That is what you hear. And all the attention goes to the little frog.”

A lot of companies want to be different, want to zig when others zag, … but when it comes down to business they don’t act that way. They don’t hire people to zig.

“The lesson is this: If you want something new to happen, ask it to people with zero experience. Chances they come up with more of the same are small.”

Thanks again Guillaume. For this lesson and for getting me on board of the agency without having an agency background.

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.

Meet the connected consumer

Last week Razorfish released their 2008 Consumer Experience Report which had (according to the report) a simple mission:

“To gain a better understanding of how technology affects today’s digital consumer experience and explore the emerging trends that will shape those experiences for years to come.”

I’ve been reading the report during my flight back home from Los Angeles and found it very much worth the time. Although I do prefer research that isn’t just US focused, I can recommend this to everyone so make sure you download it and check it out (PDF). More results are to be expected on Razorfish’s Digital Design Blog according to this post.

Listen and learn

I don’t know much about VC stuff and I’m fine with that, it doesn’t interest me a great deal. Therefore you won’t find much related feeds in my RSS reader – but there’s on though that I read with great pleasure. I stumbled upon The Post Money Value from ex-Microsoftie Rick Segal after we met during his tour with Shel Israel in Europe. I would recommend every start-up looking for VC money to add this blog to their reader and start by reading Rick’s last post on his experiences. My favorite:

“Don’t start the meeting with ‘we’re in stealth mode and I can’t discuss exactly what we are doing.’ I will get up a leave the room since you aren’t actually there.”

There’s more where this came from, and apparently all just experiences from the last 10 days!

The LIFT experience

Last week I went to LIFT08 in Geneva, and although it is a conference, I think you’d better describe it as an experience. And an experience I was really much looking forward to, especially after talking to Laurent Haug and Cristiana Bolli Freitas, the creative brains and organizers of LIFT a few months earlier.

Lift08

Part of what makes it a really interesting experience, is all the interaction and community involvement both before and at the conference. You have workshops & open stages that be suggested and voted on. There was a Live Magazine (“Not so empty book”), the Fontself,  the creating of the LIFT song, etc etc. All very unique and interactive.

It started on Wednesday with some workshops, one during the morning and one during the afternoon:

  • Fearless City: Re-routing the digital divide with mobile: I got in a bit late as I only flew in that morning, but that didn’t make it less interesting. The presenter (Irwin Oostindie) and I had a few chats later on about The Fearless City project is about digital inclusion, but looking at this issue from a technology, culture, art and community combined view. I found it quite interesting and hope I can help Irwin out with it somehow.
  • Teenagers/Generation Y and technology: The second workshop related a lot more to my day job as MSN (referring to Live Messenger) is a huge part of this. The workshop ended up in being a lengthy but interesting discussion between a few teenagers and ‘the audience’. Although the teenagers present weren’t your typical average teenagers, some learnings were still quite surprising and would most probably have applied to the average teenager anyway. I’m planning on posting a bit more in depth about this on the Live In Europe blog

Thursday and Friday were the main conference days, and while I found only few presentations on Thursday to be really good, the ones on Friday made up for that. This is a list of what I liked (links to video here):

  • Rafi Haladjian on the Nabaztag, watch out for Ztamps – RFID for the masses
  • Kevin Warwick on his life-project as a ‘cyborg’
  • Robin Hunicke (EA) on trends in designing games
  • Guy Vardi (Oberon Media) on casual gaming
  • Paul Barnett (EA Mythic) on the evolution of multiplaying games
  • Kevin Marks (Google) on Open Social

And the open stages from:

Next to all of that I obviously enjoyed meeting lots of ‘old’ and new people, seeing some back after quite a while was especially great. And last but not least, the famous Fondue on Thursday night, that was really good as well.

Overall, since it’s not a web only conference, some tech related presentations interested me less than let’s say at LeWeb3 although some did as you can see above. Apart from that the uniqueness, the interaction, the warmth of the event made it a fantastic experience. One I’m putting in my agenda for next year.

Ine, Clo, this is your conference – make sure you mark it in your agenda for ’09.