In case you missed the announcement, Google announced that they were releasing information about their new Project Glass which was the showing of what their hypothetical new glasses could do, as seen above. Predictably, everyone freaked out about the privacy ramifications, and allowing Google to see your every move. However, most bloggers have not been looking at the obvious cues and tips that Google has been signaling, either intentionally or unintentionally.
First things first, Google+ is going to be the engine beneath this entire project. Or rather, Android isn't going to be running the glasses. Throughout it all, all the programs run are either primary Google services (Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Tasks) and Google+ social tools (Google+, Google Hangouts, Google Latitude). No Gmail nor is there Google Play (née Android Market) were shown off. The guy checks in on Google+, shares a picture with his Circles, and has a hangout with a girl who he is trying to impress. Google is leveraging their ghost town of a social network to be the adhesive of the Google Glass products. Getting people to use Google+ with the Glass will make more people want to be on Google+, creating a positive network effect (a key example of this was Blackberry phones and BBM being a deciding factor in getting a Blackberry over another phone). Without people on Google+ the Glass will be utterly useless, as it does not have a useful network that everyone can use. Google is truly going all in on Google+ and is willing to create other products just to get people to use it.
If Google+ is the engine beneath the Glass, could the rumored Majel be the glue that holds everything together and a true knockout punch to Siri. From the video alone, the Glass is able to take a voice command from the onboard microphone, and set a reminder to his calendar to pre-order tickets to a show. Surprisingly, this is already a feature that Android phones offer, however, the video seemed to hint at a much tighter integration between Google services with voice commands performing all of the tasks. The sign that this may be some stronger type of personal assistant, is when, coming upon the 6 train, the glass warns that the subway service is suspended (not an uncommon occurrence in NYC) and offers to show alternate routes by walking or bus that can be used. This seems to hint at a location aware component that can react and advise the wearer alternatives when certain plans do not go as planned. Potentially, the Glass could see that you have a 5:30 meeting uptown in your Google Calendar and need at least an hour to take the train, alerting you that you need to begin to leave in order to catch the train and make it to your destination on time.
While everyone has been calling them the new Google Glasses, they have been overlooking a key semantic wording in the release: it is called Project Glass, not Project Glasses. While Google has only shown the concept for glasses, the wording seems to hint at something much more grandiose that just designer eyewear. The naming of the project as Project Glass seems to hint that Google will try to make full scale glass screens that can act as full screens much like that in Minority Report. Imagine your entire Google universe tied together in a full screen display that can show you your full day and map out your plans. By not pigeon holing themselves into being forced to make just glasses, they are now able to create a new set of products of all shapes and sizes. Furthermore, the fact that this was revealed today seems to not be a total coincidence, as it has been one year since Larry Page took over, and Page has been one to emphasize huge projects as well as pushing Google+.
While only a two and a half minute video and a few shots of what proposed glasses might look like, there are several concerns that might doom this to quirky idea rather than complete game changer in the tech field. First is the 8 billion pound gorilla in the room in regards to privacy and location awareness. In order for these glasses to work, you need to be able to allow it to share and track every move that you do. With people becoming more and more concerned about privacy and the lack of clarification they get in regards to it, a product that takes every detail of their lives and broadcasts it to their social network 24/7 is potentially off-putting and could doom it from the beginning. Also, Google is under 20 year supervision from the FTC for its many lapses in privacy and will be hard pressed to justify this total expansion of taking customer data to be used. Secondarily, the glasses appear to be always connected, requiring a 3G/4G connection at all times, making the glasses like a second phone that you have to shell out a monthly data bill for turning off many people. Thirdly, there is no real way for Google to directly monetize these glasses after sale. Assuming that Google sells these at cost, the glasses were not able to search Google and be served up hyperlocal ads based on what they were looking up and where they were. Rather, since the glasses are held together by Google+, the increased populating of your social feed will provide Google with more data that they can use to better tailor the advertisements that are shown.
These glasses look incredibly useful but a long time before their release and perhaps even longer till they gain widespread consumer traction. As the year progresses, expect Google to announce more on this project, as well as many initiatives that help coalesce Google into one big integrated company held together by social and Google+.