Wearable Tech Q&A for 10th Graders

I was contacted by a volunteer working with 10th Grade students in Los Angeles, CA through 826LA, an organization dedicated to supporting elementary, middle and high school students.  The 10th graders created a list of questions to research smart glasses for an article in their school newspaper and I’m answering them here.

  1. What, in your opinion, are some of the benefits tech glasses, such as Google Glass, can bring to people?

Let’s categorize people using tech glasses or smart glasses as people in their average day to day lives as consumer users and people using smart glasses at work enterprise users because the benefits are different for the two different types of users.

Enterprise Users

Enterprise users of smart glasses use the glasses to transmit or receive information relevant to their occupation.  Some examples include those working in occupations where their hands must be free, such as surgeons and people handling chemicals.  There are also situations where having hands free access to information saves time and makes it so that workers can do their jobs better and faster by receiving information or step by step instructions.

Consumer Users

Everyone not using smart glasses for work is a consumer user.  For consumer users, there are limited benefits beyond having a little fun with augmented reality games, taking pictures and having another way to interface with a smart phone.

  1. Do you foresee any problems caused by tech glasses, such as health or vision issues?

Obviously too much of anything can be bad.  For example, using a laptop with improper posture or hand position can lead to physical side effects.  But at this point there probably isn’t too much to be concerned about with smart glasses.  I will throw out there that virtual reality goggles such as Oculus Rift have been known to cause nausea for some people (and this is being worked on).

  1. Are there any safety concerns? For example, some people reported that Google Glass affected their peripheral vision. Do you view this as a serious concern? If so, what do you think companies manufacturing smart glasses can do to help fix this problem?

Placing an interface over the eye does affect the line of sight.  Wearers of prescription eyeglasses know that the frames around the glasses block out portions of the field of vision; however, they are worn because not seeing 20/20 is far worse.  Users of smart glasses, both consumer and enterprise users, must determine if the benefits outweigh the costs of peripheral vision loss.

  1. One major issue with Google Glass was that some people reported feeling like the video recording capability of Google Glass violated their right to privacy. Will future smart glasses face this same concern?

The biggest challenge with a product such as Google Glass for consumers (not enterprise) is that there is no way for people to know if it is being used and what it is being used for.  This is very different from a smart phone, which you can be holding and people can see when you are reading something, looking at something or when you have it up taking a photograph (a parent or teacher can also ask you to put it away).

It is OK to walk into a restaurant and take out your phone and take a picture or video.  If someone doesn’t want you to take the picture, they’ll let you know or move out of the way.  Because Google Glass can take pictures without people knowing, though, there is a problem: it violates the social contract.  This is why it failed as a consumer device.  People have been kicked out of places for wearing Google Glass and some restaurants even put up signs saying Google Glass was not allowed.  Future smart glasses will face similar concerns in the consumer space until the social contract changes and it becomes ok for video to be recorded or photos taken by anyone at any time.

  1. Who do you see buying tech glasses? Are they a product that the average person will find useful?

Companies are and will continue purchasing smart glasses for enterprise use.  There is real value created there.  There is less value created for the average consumer.  Some products coming to market that consumers will find useful fall in the entertainment space and are provided through augmented reality and virtual reality.  As these technologies improve, you may see more consumer purchases of smart glasses.

  1. Have you heard anything about future smart glass products coming out? If so, which product are you most interested in and why?

Newer versions of smart glasses are coming.  Watch for new versions of smart glasses from Sony, Epson and even Google.  I’m most interested in seeing a new smart glass solution from Google.

  1. When do you predict smart glasses becoming common? Six months? One year? Three years?

Overall in both the enterprise and for the average consumer, it will be more than three years, if not longer, before as many people in the world use smart glasses every day as use smart phones every day today.  The wide adoption of smart glasses both for the consumer and enterprise depends a lot on the software that runs on the glasses or the devices passing content to the glasses.  It is through the software that the compelling use cases for smart glasses are realized, especially in the enterprise space.  In the consumer space, the release of Magic Leap could accelerate the adoption of smart glasses.

Wrap it Up

The world of tomorrow will be a different place because of how you think of, use and develop tomorrow’s technology.  YES, it is you who will be changing the world.  There is no such thing as a crazy idea; there are so many dreams that will be realized.  What was once thought of as only science fiction can now be accomplished through smart glasses and other wearable technology.  You live in a world where these things and so much more are a possibility.  Dream big, fail big, rinse and repeat until you find success, whether it is in wearable technology or whatever you choose to pursue as a professional passion.

If you have more questions, let me know.  I’m happy to follow up with a phone call if you have more things to discuss.  Feel free to explore the Wearable Technology link, in particular you may find Wearables Dirty Laundry interesting because it talks about many of the current challenges faced by wearable technology entrepreneurs.

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