Don’t Invest in Google Glasses Just Yet
Karen is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
I had to read Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Project Glasses announcement twice to really get a handle on what it is. Someone at Google came up with the bright idea of putting smartphone technology in a voice activated wearable headset, an idea that investors and consumers might want to avoid for now.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin wasn’t half way through his Project Glasses announcement at Google’s June I/O conference and the tech world was already applauding the idea. The prototype was labeled “revolutionary” and “innovative,” and speculation abounded that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) engineers were already hard at work creating Apple Glasses.
The head’s up display (HUD) on Google Glasses has apps running along the top that are activated by voice command or eye movements. During an interview with California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Mr. Brin remarked, "The idea is that you want to be free to experience the world without futzing with a phone, so for example, you didn't even notice, but I just took a picture with you, and you were making eye contact with me in the picture. If I'd whipped out a phone, it'd have been very different. I'll e-mail it to you after."
But investors may want to hold off buying into Google Glasses based solely on Mr. Brin’s enthusiasm. Aside from getting the technology to work, the privacy issues surrounding Project Glasses could end up being a nightmare for the company. Google Glasses allow the wearer to take pictures undetected. Using your debit card to pay for groceries? The person behind you can snap pictures of your card and pin number as you key it in and nobody, including you, will know until the financial damage is done. Celebrities may have no expectation of privacy in public places, but the everyday John or Jane Doe certainly does.
On the technical side, Google Glasses have voice activation to allow hands free communication but that feature has yielded only so-so results in smartphones. Apple’s Siri and Google’s Vlingo share the same problem: their voice activation only works well in quiet areas. How will the Google Glasses voice app function in a noisy traffic environment?
There are other major problems Google must solve before the device is ready for release. Google Glasses only work if the wearer is connected to the internet, and the software program allows wearers to select an app via their eye movements. If you think texting while driving is dangerous, wait until drivers take their eyes off the road to select an app or decide to accept a video chat invitation from friends.
And the concept of a HUD headset certainly isn’t anything new. Olympus Corporation produced their own Google Glasses prototype in 2005 called the MEG4.0. Their glass-mounted HUD uses Bluetooth as its smartphone connection and has a sleeker look than Google Glasses.
Apple has the smartest engineers on the planet and could produce their own version of Google Glasses in short order. But Google developers got so caught up in the project they lost sight of the one element that truly matters: customer demand. Apple customers are ferociously loyal and winning iPad and iPhone users over to Google Glasses will be nearly impossible. This is one time when potential Google investors should be content to sit on the sidelines and let Google Glasses prove themselves before investing their money.
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