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Posts Tagged ‘Oakley Airwave’

A few weeks ago, social media “personalities” and tech gurus were so busy trying to out-swoon each other over Google Glass that no one seemed to want to ask the most obvious question everyone should have been asking about Google Glass: Why should I care?

No, I mean seriously. Why should I or anyone care about Google Glass?

1. The Emperor’s New Clothes: Tech Edition

In order to understand the problem, you have to go back to its source. Let’s do that.

The review that earned Google Glass the most attention was one put forth by “tech guru” Robert Scoble, even though it basically boiled down to paragraph after paragraph of mostly vacuous and at times incoherent babble. You can go read the entire thing here. I hope you won’t mind that I cut and pasted it here as well (to save you the trouble):

Here’s my review after having Google Glass for two weeks:

1. I will never live a day of my life from now on without it (or a competitor). It’s that significant. 
2. The success of this totally depends on price. Each audience I asked at the end of my presentations “who would buy this?” As the price got down to $200 literally every hand went up. At $500 a few hands went up. This was consistent, whether talking with students, or more mainstream, older audiences.
3. Nearly everyone had an emotional outburst of “wow” or “amazing” or “that’s crazy” or “stunning.” 
4. At NextWeb 50 people surrounded me and wouldn’t let me leave until they had a chance at trying them. I haven’t seen that kind of product angst at a conference for a while. This happened to me all week long, it is just crazy.
5. Most of the privacy concerns I had before coming to Germany just didn’t show up. I was shocked by how few negative reactions I got (only one, where an audience member said he wouldn’t talk to me with them on). Funny, someone asked me to try them in a bathroom (I had them aimed up at that time and refused).
6. There is a total generational gap that I found. The older people said they would use them, probably, but were far more skeptical, or, at minimum, less passionate about the fact that these are the future, than the 13-21-year-olds I met.

So, let’s cover the price, first of all. I bet that +Larry Page is considering two price points: something around $500, which would be very profitable. Or $200, which is about what the bill of materials costs. When you tear apart the glasses, like someone else did (I posted that to my Flipboard “Glasshole” magazine) you see a bunch of parts that aren’t expensive. This has been designed for mass production. In other words, millions of units. The only way Google will get there is to price them under $300.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Larry went very aggressive and priced them at $200. Why would Google do this? 

Easy: I’m now extremely addicted to Google services. My photos and videos automatically upload to Google+. Adding other services will soon be possible (I just got a Twitter photo app that is being developed by a third party) but turning on automatic uploads to other services will kill my batteries on both my phone and my glasses (which doesn’t have much battery life anyway). So, I’m going to be resistant to adding Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Evernote, and Tumblr to my glasses. Especially when Google+ works darn well and is the default. 

Also, Google is forbidding advertising in apps. This is a HUGE shift for Google’s business model. I believe Larry Page is moving Google from an advertising-based company to a commerce based company.

The first thing I tried that it failed on was “find me a Sushi restaurant.” I’m sure that will get fixed soon and, Google could collect a micropayment anytime I complete a transaction like reserving a seat at a restaurant, or getting a book delivered to my house, or, telling something like Bloomingdales “get me these jeans.” 

There is literally billions of dollars to be made with this new commerce-based system, rather than force us to sit and look at ads, the way Facebook and tons of other services do.

When you wear these glasses for two weeks you get the affordance is totally different and that having these on opens you up to a new commerce world. Why?

1. They are much more social than looking at a cell phone. Why? I don’t need to look away from you to use Google, or get directions, or do other things. 
2. The voice works and works with nearly every one and in every situation. It’s the first product that literally everyone could use it with voice. It’s actually quite amazing, even though I know that the magic is that it expects to hear only a small number of things. “OK Glass, Take a Picture” works. “OK Glass, Take a Photo” doesn’t. The Glass is forcing your voice commands to be a certain set of commands and no others will be considered. This makes accuracy crazy high, even if you have an accent.

I continue to be amazed with the camera. It totally changes photography and video. Why? I can capture moments. I counted how many seconds it takes to get my smartphone out of my pocket, open it up, find the camera app, wait for it to load, and then take a photo. Six to 12 seconds. With Google Glass? Less than one second. Every time. And I can use it without having hands free, like if I’m carrying groceries in from the car and my kids are doing something cute. 

I’ve been telling people that this reminds me of the Apple II, which I unboxed with my dad back in 1977. It was expensive. It didn’t do much. But I knew my life had changed in a big way and would just get better and better. Already this week I’ve gotten a new RSS app, the New York Times App, and a Twitter app. With many more on the way.

This is the most interesting new product since the iPhone and I don’t say that lightly.

Yeah, we could say the camera isn’t good in low light. We could say it doesn’t have enough utility. It looks dorky. It freaks some people out (it’s new, that will go away once they are in the market). 

But I don’t care. This has changed my life. I will never live a day without it on. 

It is that significant. 

Before I go on with the actual point of this post, let me share a few observations:

Scoble opens his review with: I will never live a day of my life from now on without it (or a competitor). It’s that significant. 

What’s bizarre though is that Robert Scoble never actually explains why the product is so significant or why he will never live a day of his life from now on without it. I looked for a reason. Any reason. All I could find was this:

There is literally billions of dollars to be made with this new commerce-based system, rather than force us to sit and look at ads, the way Facebook and tons of other services do.

When you wear these glasses for two weeks you get the affordance is totally different and that having these on opens you up to a new commerce world. Why?

1. They are much more social than looking at a cell phone. Why? I don’t need to look away from you to use Google, or get directions, or do other things. 
2. The voice works and works with nearly every one and in every situation. It’s the first product that literally everyone could use it with voice. It’s actually quite amazing, even though I know that the magic is that it expects to hear only a small number of things. “OK Glass, Take a Picture” works. “OK Glass, Take a Photo” doesn’t. The Glass is forcing your voice commands to be a certain set of commands and no others will be considered. This makes accuracy crazy high, even if you have an accent.

Once you get past the 5th grade sentence structure and grammar (or lack thereof), what Scoble tells us is basically that this amaaaazing product he will never live a day of his life without ever again is awesome because…

a) Billions of dollars can be made from its mobile commerce system. Okay… Except this is identical to mobile commerce on smart phones. The goggles don’t actually offer a new model of e-commerce or m-commerce. It’s the same exact shit, only with an interface that you wear on your face instead of one you hold in your hand. Also, as a user, why should I care about the billions of dollars retailers and tech companies will make from mobile commerce? It isn’t a benefit to me as a consumer. So… we haven’t been presented with any concrete consumer value for Google Glass yet.

b) It can’t find sushi restaurants for you, but it will someday. Yes. Amazing. Siri can do that now. So can pretty much any car equipped with a GPS system, any smart phone with a browser, and every tablet connected to the interwebs. Moving on…

c) They are much more social than looking at a cell phone? Um… no. Browsing the web and reading emails while you pretend to pay attention to someone while they talk to you isn’t “more social”. It’s the epitome of tech douchebaggery, actually. It’s both rude and antisocial, which is the exact opposite of social. Turn the goggles off and actually participate in the conversation. Make eye contact. Give a shit about someone other than yourself for just five minutes. That’s what “social” actually means in the real world. So… no. Again, zero concrete reason to not go a day without Google Glass has been presented as of yet.

d) I want you to consider the following passage for a minute. Are you ready? Here we go:

The voice works and works with nearly every one and in every situation. It’s the first product that literally everyone could use it with voice. It’s actually quite amazing, even though I know that the magic is that it expects to hear only a small number of things. “OK Glass, Take a Picture” works. “OK Glass, Take a Photo” doesn’t. The Glass is forcing your voice commands to be a certain set of commands and no others will be considered. This makes accuracy crazy high, even if you have an accent.

Once you have gotten over the suspicion that this entire review was either written by a non-English speaking intern or generated by the same Chinese algorithm that sends SPAM directly into your inbox 139 times per day, what you garner from that paragraph is this: Google glass is voice activated but it isn’t super intuitive. If you don’t know the right commands, you’re kind of screwed.

Well, hot damn! Why didn’t you say so? You can sort of talk to it, and sometimes, it does what you tell it to? Sign me up! Unfortunately, just as we were starting to get somewhere, Scoble adds a little more magic to his sales pitch:

Yeah, we could say the camera isn’t good in low light. We could say it doesn’t have enough utility. It looks dorky. It freaks some people out (it’s new, that will go away once they are in the market). 

Oh. Shit. Just when I was getting excited about yelling into a pair of goggles with a comprehension problem. So… the camera kind of sucks, it doesn’t really do anything yet, it looks dorky and people who aren’t trying to be quoted by Wired or Mashable or score a pair to review on their blog are suspicious of it to the point that they will run away if you even start walking in their general direction (especially when you happen to be trolling public bathrooms in search of cool photos to post to your Google Plus stream). Awesome.

So now I have even less reasons to go out and buy Google Glass than when I had zero reasons to go out and buy Google Glass. Fortunately, our favorite Tech Guru du jour attempts to redeem himself in the end with this eloquent and deeply thought out breakdown of why Google Glass is the best thing since the invention of fire:

But I don’t care. This has changed my life. I will never live a day without it on. 

It is that significant. 

Ah. Well, okay then. I can see why so many people swooned over this thing as soon as Robert Scoble professed his undying love for a product he couldn’t quite manage to talk about coherently.

Excuse me but what a massive crock of shit. Tech guru my ass. How about we start over, starting with this:

1. Before you can really be any kind of guru, learn how to string two coherent thoughts together in a cohesive sentence. Or don’t. Whatever. Evidently, nobody bothers to read any of this shit before sharing it and retweeting it anyway.

2. Stop blowing smoke up our asses for just ten minutes and look at tech products objectively, starting with Glass. If they’re great, explain why. If they aren’t, explain why. Is that really so hard? This whole social media/guru/pseudo-futurist-douchebags-spewing-bullshit-all-day-long culture of manufactured “influence” needs to come to an abrupt end. It isn’t healthy. It isn’t healthy for companies like Google, for VCs, for startups, for product managers, for marketing, for journalism, and it sure as shit isn’t healthy for innovation either. We are so busy trying to find ways to reward well-funded mediocrity that we completely overlook real successes in innovation. We are celebrating all the wrong things.

2. Product Management is about more than buzz and “influencer” marketing. It’s about 360 degree execution

Don’t get me wrong. Google Glass might be a great product someday (and I hope it is) but right now, it isn’t much of anything. It’s barely a prototype. It’s a first stage proof of concept. It is not a product. Not yet. The worst thing Google can do is believe its own PR. This product isn’t ready. Period.

Incidentally, if I hear one more tech writer or guru compare Google Glass to the iPhone launch, I am going to start getting angry. Here is a little dose of reality: when Apple released the iPhone, it wasn’t a barely functional prototype. It was a working product. It did things. People understood what it was. Its value was crystal clear. Google Glass as it exists today isn’t even remotely comparable to the state of the iPhone when it launched.

If you want to pinpoint the moment that Google Glass will truly become a product, look towards the day when Google finally figures out what Google Glass is. (If Google’s “let’s build something and figure out what it is later” pattern of behavior feels like a recurring theme, you aren’t wrong. Google+ is still trying to figure out if it’s a social network, a collaboration ecosystem, or a dozen other things. Google Wave was… oh, never mind.)

Even Robert Scoble wasn’t able to figure out exactly what Glass is or why he liked it so much, and Google certainly isn’t helping consumers figure it out yet either. Okay, sure, it’s a wearable computer. Awesome. IBM introduced the idea back in 1997, then again a decade ago in this commercial;  and I am pretty sure I have seen versions of this in a dozen sci-fi movies. So this isn’t exactly earth-shattering innovation yet. Right now, it’s more of a voice-activated camera glued to cheap eyeglass frames with limited computer-like interface capabilities. In other words, it basically takes some of the basic things your smart phone can do and repackages them into a shitty looking eyeglass gadget that doesn’t really do anything novel but costs twice as much.  Not exactly the game changer we keep hearing about from the tech gurus.

Let’s recap. Right now, Google Glass does this:

And this:

And this:

And as far as messaging goes, this is the most significant review of the product so far:

It’s the first product that literally everyone could use it with voice. It’s actually quite amazing, even though I know that the magic is that it expects to hear only a small number of things.”

Awesome. I raise my glass to that, sir. Mark Twain would be proud. Maybe Google might want to look into hiring product development and product management folks from companies like Nike, Oakley, Sony, LG and Rudy Project at this point, because this smells like amateur hour. Sorry. Glass deserves better than this.

3. First to market is not the same thing as first to scale: how Google could lose its grip on the wearable computer market

I really hope that Google’s product management team figures out what they want to do soon, because right now, outside of the tech hype bubble, no one is super impressed. The Glass team needs to find its legs fast, and here is why: other companies are already taking the wearable computer concept and actually moving forward with the development of real products. Cool products. Products with utility and a point.

Here are two of them that you guys should pay attention to:

1. Oakley Airwave GPS-enabled goggles: If you’re a skier, snowboarder or a downhill mountain biker, the Airwave’s heads-up display already allows you to track speed (GPS integration can accurately measure how fast you are moving down a slope), jump analytics (measures and tracks distance, height and airtime of your jumps), vertical travel (measures your vertical feet by run, by day and over the course of the season), and navigation (pinpoints your location on a map and finds the run or points of interest you’re looking for).

It is also equipped with trip viewer capability (it lets you review your performance stats like max speed, total vert and max air, in detail, run by run or for the whole day), and has a buddy tracking system (helps you locate and track friends that have the Oakley Airwave goggle or App on their smartphone). Last but not least, the interface lets you control your music, monitor incoming phone calls and text messages while you’re on the slopes.

Here’s a quick video of what it can already do:

For more info, check out Oakley.com/airwave.

2. Recon Jet: a heads-up display for cyclists, triathletes, runners, and so on. As a triathlete myself, I immediately see value in this technology for me. The idea that I might as some point be able to move my bike computer’s data to a heads-up display is genius. One aspect of this is safety: I like the idea of being able to keep my eyes on the road at all times. Every time I have to look down at my bike computer, I run the risk of touching someone’s wheel or hitting a pothole. Also, if an aerodynamic tuck, not having to look down to see how fast I am going or what my wattage is can save me precious seconds over the course of a race. Add to that the possibility of adding biofeedback (like heart rate) to the display and even GPS features (like course maps and elevation), and you really have a product that most competitive cyclists will gladly spend upwards of $300 on. There is real functionality there. Ergo: real purpose and value.

Bonus: We still aren’t looking at the style and elegance of Oakley or Rudy Project competition eyewear, but the frames don’t look like something out of a skymall catalog from 2003 either. They’re actually wearable.


For more info, check out jet.reconinstruments.com.

Do you see the difference between Google Glass and these two products? While Glass still struggles to figure out what it wants to be and relies on “tech gurus” to help them find their way (sorry but recording the moments of your life isn’t enough unless you’re Canon or Nikon), Oakley and Recon Instruments have already identified markets, purpose, and specific features and functionality to answer the needs of those markets. It won’t be long now before you start seeing other applications pop up specifically for law enforcement, military personnel, hospital workers, retail sales clerks, hotel and restaurant staff, automobile drivers, customer service reps, educators, students, tourists, and so on.

Do you know what the difference is between a gadget and a product? It isn’t features or branding. It’s purpose. Purpose matters. It strikes to the very identity of a product. “What is this?” is as important a question as “what is it for?” and “what does it do?” These three questions form the basis for “what will this do for me?” If you can answer neither, you don’t have a product. You still only have an idea, and at best, a prototype. If you can sort of answer it but not completely, what you have is a gadget. You’re in infomercial territory. That’s where Google Glass is right now. (“I can wear Twitter on my face? Awesome!!! Here’s my money!” Good luck with that.)

Unfortunately for Google, if you really want to see where this technology is headed, you may have to start looking outside of Google for the next year or two. If Oakley and Recon Instruments are already developing cool heads-up display products with a point, it’s probably a safe bet to look to companies like Bolle, Smith Optics, Nike, Rudy Project, Garmin, Polar and Specialized to follow suit. Basically any company that makes pro-quality athletic eyewear, GPS devices, heart rate monitors and head protection will find a reason to get into this tech. They will be the first to put these types of products on the shelves and see commercial success.

The second wave will come from startups and communications/data companies that plug into government and service industries, especially those that rely heavily on CRM technologies. The big question mark will be whether tech companies like Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, LG and even the Nokias of the world will get into the wearable computer game as well. If they do, assuming they care to invest in what is currently at best a niche product category, what will be Google’s answer to their slick design, smooth interfaces, purpose, image, utility, device functionality overlap and cross-compatibility? It’s a real question.

Google may be one of the players in this emerging market, but it certainly won’t be the leader if it doesn’t quickly start focusing on a) creating interfaces for specific verticals to create clear value props, scale and renewable revenues and b) developing designs that don’t look like something out of a K-mart version of a Star Trek prop that only a middle-aged tech geek would be caught wearing in public.

There is a market development model for this type of tech that, while complex, isn’t rocket science to figure out and put into play, but… well… right now, let’s just say that Google doesn’t really seem to be moving in that direction. It’s a shame too, because with the right team leading the charge, Google really could do something amazing with this. It’s kind of sad that it might all slip away for no other reason than a lack of direction, or an absence of product marketing leadership, or both.

*          *          *

Olivier Blanchard is the author of Social Media R.O.I.: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. (You can sample a free chapter at smroi.net.) If English isn’t your first language, #smROI is also available in Spanish, Japanese, German, Korean and Italian now, with more international editions on the way.

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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