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Google Glass Lost Its Number One Fan

Influential tech blogger Robert Scoble says, "What is going on here in a world where I am carrying around a camera and EVERYONE uses their phones or a GoPro but Glass feels freaky and weird?"

Influential tech blogger and dadcore icon Robert Scoble was one of Google Glass's earliest and most vocal adopters, at one point vowing to never take them off, even in the shower. But right before a Skrillex set at Coachella last weekend, he says he made the right decision by foregoing his cyborg monocle among a sea of the dubstep bros, after seeing other Glass-wearers shunned.

"What is going on here in a world where I am carrying around a camera and EVERYONE uses their phones or a GoPro but Glass feels freaky and weird?" he asked on Facebook. "Google has launched this product poorly, is what." The problem, he says, is that wearable technology requires "a different set of skills than Google has." Namely, "empathy."

But for all the useful stuff Glass might legitimately prove useful for, the technology in its current form can't seem to shake its Glasshole vibe. As it stands, Glass is today's equivalent of a scarlet letter, a $1,500 emblem of all the resentment harbored toward Silicon Valley. As USC journalism professor and technology critic Robert Hernandez put it to Fast Company recently, "Whenever I put on Glass, I'm essentially opting in to answering a lot of questions."

Part of it is because Glass is too expensive and gauche, appealing to such an effete slice of the technorati that most people still find it alienating, or scary. Forbes asked Project Glass marketing chief Ed Sanders about the Glass backlash, and whether the criticisms are troubling, or merely par for the course. You should read the whole interview, but this nugget about Glass's high price point is interesting:

But limiting the scope of the test was important to getting the product right, and that's precisely why Google charges $1500 for a unit, Sanders says. "The high price point isn't just about the cost of the device. We want people who are going to be passionate about it." Just giving it away to beta-testers wouldn’t have produced the same kind of self-selection effect, he says: "We wanted people who really wanted it."

Smartphones and digital cameras never had to swim this hard upstream. Glass's unique brand of backlash is an odd problem for a potentially world-changing technology that may one day be everywhere.

Google, on the other hand, has been proactively scrambling to figure out how to make Glass appealing to normal folks, camouflaging it as a stylish pair of eyeglasses. But when your most visible cheerleader (to say nothing of your own developers) says it has a perception problem—the man who epitomizes your typical Glass wearer—then maybe it's time to reassess the situation.

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  • Hi. A camera or a GoPro is used on demand when someone wants to take a picture or video of something... Google glasses are line injecting tv display right into your brain... Far differently as concepts and they do not compare.

    Take GoPro...You can mount it on your helmet or on a stick to use to record an activity. Its doesn't interfere with your brain or changes the perception of reality. It doesn't project something into your brain. Sure it doesn't "google something" but its for different reasons and usage. Most athletes in our site use GoPro but do not use Google glasses as they also have to wear protective glasses and related equipment.

    So comparison is big.

  • Chris Vighagen

    They could have learned so much from how Apple launched the first iPhone. the first iPhone was barely useable by todays smartphone standards and even the "Normal" phone standards of the time, but it got a huge following of early adopters who loved it.

    Now couple that with Apples incremental perfectionist strategy of slowly but surely improve on the user experience and the Glass would have become a huge hit.

    Glass is one of those products that most non-techno-geek people don't quite get until they have played around with it, and then they see the possibilities.

    I think that Google made a huge mistake by having a camera visible, I would have made sure that a physical shield or lens cap would cover the camera when it wasn't in use.

    Sure Google knew that the Glass is pretty useful with the camera but its also useful without the camera just not as much. They should have released the first version at a cheaper price point without the camera.

  • Kimberly A. Hawkins

    This is the silliest marketing comment I've ever seen written: "We wanted people who really wanted it," Ed Sanders. This is his defense why no one is purchasing his product? Mister Ed, you best be lookin' for a new gig.

  • People might enjoy the whole glasshole thing when they can't afford it, but price it so young people can afford it, and give it some -useful- functionality beyond checkins and find-a-good-thai-restaurant and you'll see mass market adoption. High-tech's appeal is strong and deeply-rooted.

  • Didn't have to fight that hard upstream? I'd say early smartphones did (cough Newton), video calling, pre-iPad tablets, pre-iPod MP3 players…

    I suspect people forget that Glass is actually pretty bleeding edge. Sure, they have done a cloak and dagger approach (and it's still US only), but at the same end, it's far too early to say it's failed.

  • Don Clark

    I also believe they launched the product incorrectly. They did they same with other products - including Google Wave.

  • Perhaps the fact he "epitomises your typical Glass wearer" is the issue though?

    If it epitomised Kanye West or Emma Stone or Neil De Grasse Tyson or Stephen Colbert it might be faring a bit better.