After its widely publicized flop, Google Glass is making a quiet comeback.
Back when Glass’ first iteration sparked interest, then mockery in 2013, marketers for the product first saw through the glass darkly—giving “Explorers,” or early adopters, exclusivity to test out the expensive ($1,500 a pop) prototype, but never announcing an official product launch. Even then, Google understood the potential for its product backfiring, warning Explorers not to “be creepy or rude (aka, a ‘Glasshole’).” Public opinion turned out to be mostly negative—from privacy and safety concerns to the functionality being of little applicable use to consumer needs.
But we’ve come a long way in four short years. Since then, augmented reality (AR) tech is catching up, and public demand is catching on.
Back in April of this year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced the AR future of Facebook and the death of the smartphone. Snap rolled out its very own Snapchat Spectacles. And Pokémon GO emerged as an unexpected champion of AR, doing more to illustrate to folks exactly what AR can do with a handheld device (and the help of some wild Charmanders) than any apps for smart glasses.
Even with these new AR innovations in play, Google’s efforts remain conservative. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t trying a different lens.
Enter Glass Enterprise Edition. Billed as a “hands-free device, for hands-on workers,” the new Glass works with a variety of partners to develop custom apps, software solutions, and support for the workforce. So far, Enterprise customers include the likes of GE, DHL, and Volkswagen.
By reframing Glass as a tool, and working with developers to make it a multifunctional, useful one, Glass has finally found a target market that can directly see its value and appeal. And Google’s parent company, Alphabet, can finally see some ROI.
Glass seems to have found its niche in marketing to manufacturers. The product is well-suited to productivity, and hands-free productivity at that—say, when doing field work, or on a production line.
The first marketing efforts for Glass went into building up the hype, with Glass even making an appearance at a Diane von Furstenburg fashion show. What seemed a stretch on the runway looks perfectly in place on the factory floor—Enterprise glasses aren’t far off from safety goggles. Randomly saying “OK Glass” to activate an app is also more appropriate when the people around you know you’re using a tool to work more productively, especially if coworkers are using it to communicate with each other and look up instructions, training procedures, charts, or work orders.
Image courtesy of AGCO
Wired reported that Glass improves efficiencies on the factory floor by equipping workers with instant visual instruction manuals, even allowing employees to zoom in for a closer look at manufacturing parts. Rick Reuter, a continuous improvement manager at a farming equipment company called AGCO, said that Glass has now become just another part of his toolkit, similar to always having a torque tool on hand. “Now it’s required to go through these electronic work instructions as part of your job,” he explained. “So the acceptance is a whole lot more different here than it would be for the public.”
In addition, Glass Enterprise has some much-needed updates. These updates include:
So it would seem that these updates not only have workers with long shifts in mind but they also at least address some of those pesky privacy issues—and in environments where proprietary information and processes are taking place in business, they’d need to.
Doctors and healthcare specialists are also making use of Enterprise.
X, Google’s moonshot factory, reported that Google partner Augmedix developed an application called a “remote scribe” that allows providers to have more face-to-face interactions with patients. The scribe app takes care of recording and documenting patient information so that doctors can focus on answering patient questions, as well as on having a more human connection, instead of typing medical information into a computer during consultations. This allows doctors to focus on the patient and also saves time. Dignity Health has been using Glass Enterprise for this purpose with great success—Dignity’s chief medical information officer, Dr. Davin Lundquist, said that Glass has reduced the amount of time spent on administrative work from 33 percent of a provider’s day to less than 10 percent.
One brand paving the way to work with medical professionals and Glass Enterprise is Philips—you’ve probably bought a razor from them at some point. The electronics, lighting, and healthcare company is exploring Glass’ potential by imagining the possibilities in the operating room, even creating and hosting videos featuring anesthesiologists as they use Glass in surgical settings. Philips also offers practical suggestions as to how wearers could make the most of the glasses using voice commands, including:
Philips even asks healthcare professionals how they would use wearable computers in their practice, and invites them to join in the conversation in the appropriate forum for professionals: LinkedIn.
Other wearable tech is branching out from fitness tracking to professional health monitoring, with PhysIQ seeking to use artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor the health of ambulatory patients.
So, what can marketers learn from the initial failure of Glass and its Enterprise comeback?
First, you should have a plan. Don’t rely solely on your name, or on building up hype. Next, listen to public response and adjust accordingly. Privacy issues are still a concern, even (and perhaps especially) with Enterprise. Third, you need to have an idea of who your target market is and put yourself in their shoes. How might they actually use the product effectively? Put some ideas out there and suggest creative ways customers can implement product functionality and features in their daily lives. Or, like Philips, you can even ask them for ideas.
Google may not be ready to take Glass back to the mass-consumer market, but wearable tech with AR capabilities is here to stay. Once marketers find the right angle, we’ll all begin to see the world differently.
Retailers, for example, can take the opportunity to incorporate AR into the user’s customer experience, and even develop such AR apps for wearables. Wayfair already has a head start. Wayfair Next, the brand’s team that explores new tech possibilities, recently announced that it sees AR as a way to enhance online shopping. Through a supported device with built-in sensors, the Wayfair app could allow customers to view simulated furniture next to the real furniture that exists in their space. While creating 3-D content is challenging, adventurous companies like Wayfair can, with the right resources, develop similar AR enhancements for their markets.
The possibilities for AR and smart glasses are endless. With video content on the rise, having devices that can capture video from new perspectives can reach new levels of entertainment and instruction—provided the ability isn’t abused by “Glassholes.”
Other hands-free opportunities for marketing technology could include appealing to sports enthusiasts (what if you could see exactly how to throw that left uppercut in the boxing ring?), chefs and at-home cooks (reading recipes instantly while your hands are covered in flour), and even drivers (seeing a GPS map overlay in the glasses to help you navigate).
While all of these possibilities are exciting, marketers also need to take a lesson from Glass and approach new technology with care. Privacy concerns still aren’t going away. Protection for smart devices leaves much to be desired, and with the Internet of Things (IoT) on the rise, security can turn into a tangled web. Furthermore, with personal health info being automatically tracked and recorded, privacy is even more of an issue than ever.
As technology becomes more sophisticated, so too must our thinking when it comes to its impact and greater implications.
With all of this in mind, marketers should take heart that Google Glass is seeing a resurgence through Enterprise.
After public fallout and Glass’ return, the lesson here is that you don’t necessarily have a bad product, or even a bad marketing plan. You may just need to look at your strategy from a different perspective, through a different lens. By narrowing your focus, you can lead the charge in helping both brands and consumers understand a product’s value—all it takes is a little creative thinking, with one eye on the present and one looking toward the future.
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Featured image attribution: Antonio Zugaldia