Rarely does a product comes along that whips a crowd into a frenzy of excitement while simultaneously eliciting scorn and derision. But one thing Google did well is that it launched a product that a lot of people took an interest in.
If their goal was to get people talking about their products, they succeeded. The tech blogs exploded with opinions on how Glass would become the next “must have” gadget or how it would put Google in the proverbial “Big Brother” position.
The adolescence of Glass hasn’t stopped people from forming opinions although very few have actually worn the device. Nobody knows what Google plans to do with Glass, but a number of companies see a future in developing applications for the first relatively inexpensive wearable computer.
Google initially seeded the Glass ecosystem by creating a few basic apps tied to existing Google services. These include Google Maps, Google+, and Gmail to name a few. But most of the excitement of Glass has been focused on what third parties are doing with it, and that’s the focus of this article. We’ll take a look what type of applications are being developed, and who is developing them.
Who Is Developing Glass Apps?
As with most budding technologies, individuals tend to be the first to jump into the unknown and rally around a product, even one with an uncertain future. Glass might be backed by Google, but its user base is tiny compared to say, Windows or iOS. Companies and corporations want to put their investments where the user base is, to reap as much return as possible and fast. Individual developers can afford to be visionaries, having less investment to lose and most potential visibility to gain, like selling to a niche market.
Applications created by freelance Glass developers include everything from a Blackjack app to an app similar to Songza that can name the song you’re listening to. Many of the apps add basic functionality that one could imagine should be standard features in future versions of Glass. These include a battery meter, picture organizer and an app that tells you the speed at which you’re traveling. Still, at most we’re talking about a few dozen apps. The opportunity for developer recognition is ripe.
Today’s apps for Glass are decidedly geeky in nature, which makes sense when you consider the early adopters are those willing to wear a computer on their face. Google lists four startups creating apps for Glass (GPOP, Farlo, Augmedix, iCaddy) while others startups are keeping a low profile instead of announcing their creation to the world. If your VC backed startup is creating a world-changing app, would you announce it? Probably not.
What Type of Apps Are Being Created?
From my research it appears the development community is focusing on two areas that have a lot of potential in terms of impact and monetary reward: Augmented reality and health care.
I recently had the opportunity to spend an afternoon flying a quadcopter around the park. My brother-in-law showed me how to work the controls, and I spent a few minutes trying not to crash his toy into the crowd below. I would have spent a lot more time practicing had it not been for the camera mounted to the quadcopter, beaming back video to the iPhone mounted on the controls. It’s not hard to imagine a future version of the quad’s software supporting Google Glass, and providing a birds-eye view of the park to the wearer.
We’ll no doubt see far more complex games utilizing augmented reality to draw the gamer closer to the action, and Glass could play a part in bringing that deep gaming experience to a wider audience. This is exactly the type of experience iCaddy plans to provide the golfer.
While gaming seems to garner a lot of attention and investment around Glass, the real killer-app could very well come from one of several companies developing healthcare related apps. Wearable Intelligence is one of a handful of companies building products for both medical and energy companies that will help their workers with enhanced information about their job. We covered a number of these scenarios back in May, and the potential here is huge.
The Future of Glass
While the excitement around Glass is genuine, so is the public’s skepticism and palpable mistrust of any device that can easily encroach on one’s privacy. We live in a world coming to grips with Edward Snowden’s accusations that the US government is willing to spy on its own citizens and allies. So in many respects, Google has its work cut out for itself in positioning Glass as a useful device that demands clear privacy and social parameters in how it’s used.
It’s still too early to say developers will rally around Glass. Current developers must agree not to charge for apps or display ads on Glass. The jury is still out on whether Glass will provide a robust enough foundation on which developers and companies can build legitimate businesses. Google has deep pockets to continue improving Glass, but do they have the patience to do so? I hope they do.