When Google Glass first came out, people didn’t get the point. There didn’t seem to be much you could do with it. Shoot videos and pictures from your perspective. Check your email. Navigate on Google maps.
It was like a smartphone with no apps. Can you imagine your Android or iOS sans developer magic? What’s the point? It would turn it into a Windows Phone. Zing!
It took the creativity of the third party developer community to turn smartphones into the powerful mini computers we can’t bear to part with today. The same goes for Glass. As a stand-alone application, it doesn’t offer much, and when it’s released to the public its widespread adoption will depend on what secondary programs can run through it.
There’s the standard big apps that Google has partnered with from the beginning to build on Glass, like Evernote, Facebook, The New York Times, and Twitter. These aren’t new programs nor built natively for Glass.
The most exciting applications are going to be ones we can’t quite fathom now. The sort that use Glass’ inherent properties to create entirely new experiences for the users.
Just like Tinder, Uber, or Instagram transformed our lifestyles using the inherent properties of mobile, the same will go for the applications that were built first and foremost for Glass.
That’s the case with Guidekick, which builds apps for historical attractions. The company’s first app, Hearst Castle, turns Google Glass into a customized multimedia visitor’s guide. Since Glass projects an image into a user’s view and feeds audio information into her ears, it’s the ideal tour guide. Low energy BlueTooth beacons are set up around Hearst Castle, feeding the app real-time information about where the user is situated and what she’s looking at.
That way, people can stroll about to whatever catches their eye and receive detailed information about each part of the castle. It’s similar to audio tour guides visitors can rent, but in this case they’re fed visual, not just auditory, information.
If you don’t care about Hearst Castle and this seems boring to you, imagine all the other use cases to which this app could apply. Museum galleries. Historical tours. Old ruins. Nature walks. Zoos. Even theme parks like Disneyland or Six Flags. Basically any attraction that the public might want real-time information about as they venture through it.
Hearst Castle showcases Google Glass’ augmented reality. A user interacts with his surroundings in a realistic way, an immediacy not afforded by a smart phone, which pulls a person out of living the actual moment.
It’s the sort of application that’s perfect for Glass and wouldn’t work as well on mobile. Who wants to be staring at their phone to get information as they tour The Coliseum or stroll through The Met? That defeats the whole purpose of soaking in the place. But since Glass projects such information on top of whatever you’re looking at, it doesn’t detract.
Still, Glass is largely untested since it’s still in beta and not available to the public. Mass adoption is by no means assured. People could find it annoying to have an image projected in front of their eyes, suffer Glass-induced headaches, be put off by its in-your-face nerdiness. Glass itself has hit road bumps, with testers finding problems with the Internet connection, voice recognition system, and tap-swipe sensors.
If Google has its way, Glass could influence how we interact with the world, much like smartphones did. First, though, someone has to design creative apps for it. Apps that are built specifically with Glass and its capabilities in mind.
Hearst Castle showcases one of what will hopefully be many more use cases to come.