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.