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Why Google Glass is overrated – and why I hope I’m mistaken

When I first heard about Google’s Project Glass, I was ecstatic.

The cavemen of augmented reality, those old, bulky head-mounted displays (HMDs) were finally to be shelved for something light, sleek and chic. Numerous announcements brought models wearing the device, which made it look desirable to the average cosmopolitan. One fashion show actually had all of its runway models sporting the gadget to seemingly hammer the point home. But once the initial euphoria died down, I started to see things differently.

If you’ve never heard of it, Project Glass (or Google Glasses, as they’re usually called) is a device worn like a pair of glasses, that beams information about the weather, what your friends are doing and so on, straight into your eyeballs, as opposed to having to whip out a mobile device to do exactly the same thing. Your smartphone can pretty much do anything Google Glasses will do. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop some tech sites and journalists calling it “the biggest technology revolution since the laptop”.

To be quite blunt, I really don’t see Google Glasses becoming the next big thing in the digital world, and here’s why.

At the initial price of $1,500 (€1,170 and for developers only at this point), it seems a bit steep for a gadget that makes your smartphone hands-free. Like that Bluetooth earpiece that everyone used to have a couple of years ago. Despite Google’s attempt to make it look classy, it doesn’t look like something that people toting Apple phones and other ‘designer electronics’ will want to wear.

There’s such a thing as a gadget’s ‘social weight’, literally meaning how much people are willing to be seen with that device in public. Google have a history of not being able to deliver in this aspect, since their main focus has always been on the technology, and not on the look and feel of things. Although they have recently shifted their mindset, it seems as though Project Glass may have missed the boat by a few minutes.

I do, however, hope I’m proved wrong. A device like Google Glasses is the next evolutionary step that augmented reality needs to take to deliver more value to its users. But unless it becomes cheaper, and actually offers a viable alternative to owning a smartphone, then at this point, it’s an experiment, not a revolution.

Simon Theuma heads a start-up specialising in mobile-based augmented reality services.

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