Discussions have erupted in the blogosphere regarding the viability of Google’s latest innovation, «Project Glass,» Android-powered eyeglasses with a personal heads-up display. The corporation, known for testing highly advanced and sometimes outlandish technologies, released a video last week featuring a consumer wearing glasses that allow him to talk, text, check in to stores, receive coupons based on his location, map his routes and take and then share photos on social media — all by giving commands aloud. Instead of seeing the icons on a mobile phone, the user sees them, virtually, in front of his face.
Google isn’t sharing any details — the company’s PR representative Jay Nancarrow said it could not comment on how the product worked, how much the glasses would cost or when or if they’ll launch. That begs two questions: How realistic is this technology, and what does it mean for retailers if it’s really on the horizon?
The technology, although admittedly cool, needs a lot of work, said Todd Haselton, senior editor of mobile for TechnoBuffalo.com. Despite rumors that the glasses will be available by the end of the year and a recent photo of Google co-founder Sergey Brin sporting a pair on PC World’s blog, Haselton doesn’t think the product is anything as advanced as what Google’s video portrays – not yet, anyway.
«Augmented reality still doesn’t work well on phones, which are more powerful than those glasses,» he said. «I think the technology Google showed in its video is incredibly compelling, but we can’t assume it’s even close to that level of perfection yet.»
But Google Glasses seem to run on the same technology we’ve been using for years, said Oskari Grönroos, CTO at Quotiply, a mobile phone app development company.
«I think the basic tech inside Google Glasses isn’t that pie-in-the-sky,» said Grönroos, who after watching the video said the platform looks to be basically made up of a transparent screen, a tiny computer with a specially designed OS, voice recognition, 3G/WiFi connectivity, a tiny camera, possibly eye-movement tracking and a long-lasting battery.
«All of these things we have had for years. Most of them are in your run-of-the-mill, low-end Android smartphone.»
The main issues slowing Google down, said Grönroos, are getting the technology into a package that is affordable — a variety of bloggers speculate that the glasses could cost anywhere between $200 and $600 — and making them lightweight enough for consumers to wear.
«Obviously, it would also suffer from the same problems that smartphones do — data connection being too slow, GPS location isn’t accurate enough. However, on a basic level, Google Glasses is just current technology in futuristic packaging.»
Should retailers care?
Retailers should always be looking over the horizon to determine better ways to engage and interact with their customers, said Brian Ardinger, SVP & CMO of Nanonation, a company known for creating high-tech solutions to help retailers enhance the customer experience.
«While Google Glasses may or may not live up to the vision or hype seen in its promo video, the fact is customer technologies aren’t going away. We are in the very early stages of disruption that today’s mobile and social tools will have on the retail landscape,» he said. «Customers now have the tools and technology to dictate engagement. To survive, retailers will need to learn, experiment and deliver compelling experiences across platforms and technologies.»
Google Glasses could facilitate retail experiences in a similar fashion to the way smartphones are currently being used. They have the potential to help retailers make sales by popping up in-store offers, but they could also serve as a way to drive traffic, said Gary Edwards, chief customer officer of Empathica, a customer experience management (CEM) solutions provider. For example, the GPS in them could be used for wayfinding or to alert shoppers to offers when they are near certain stores. They’re just another vehicle for location-based marketing.
The glasses could also facilitate a real-time sale, where customers don’t even need to be in the store to purchase something, Edwards said.
«This is just an extension of the current transition to couch commerce; (consumers) are using their tablets or phones to shop while watching TV, so now you’re at home with your glasses on and can see augmented content on a TV show. It’s even easier than with your phone; the interaction with TV would be a killer.»
Edwards also believes the glasses could help retailers with internal communication. For example, managers performing check-ins could chat with employees while they both view a virtual checklist instead of doing live audits or sending coaches out to stores.
«You could experience the audit, compare, provide feedback and feature and record with live video streaming,» he said. «This takes us a long ways away from clipboards.»
On the contrary, Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, doesn’t see much of a use for them in the retail space.
«Yes they could be fun, but who exactly would this appeal to? And when marketers get a hold of them they will quickly be discarded like yesterday’s 3-D glasses,» he said.
Retail Customer Experience 20/04/2012 (ver artículo)