Problems Outweigh Potential For Now with Wearables

TheJerkGoogleGlassIf you have $1,500 burning a hole in your pocket or are simply an early adopter who isn’t part of Google’s Explorer program, today’s your day. Google Glasses are available for purchase in limited numbers to anyone.

Wearables like Google Glass and the Pebble Smartwatch are gaining attention and have potential, but they’re not quite ready for primetime. I received a Pebble as a holiday gift last year and had the opportunity to test drive Google Glass thanks to the guys at Social Driver a few weeks ago, and neither have blown me away.

As someone who took notes freshman year on a first-generation Macintosh PowerBook 170 and bought a first-generation iPod back before anyone knew what an iPod was, I’m all for early adoption. Those products however were serviceable right off the bat. Sure, their technology improved and prices dropped, but for the most part they were fully functional at launch.

Pebble and Google Glass on the other hand are not only making users serve as guinea pigs, they’re making them pay for the privilege. My Pebble watch was purchased as part of a Kickstarter campaign, was delivered months late and within six months had to be replaced fro a screen glitch. During the Q&A of the Google Glass demonstration, Explorers spoke of poor battery life and the glasses get hot to the touch. Because Google Glass can’t differentiate voices, anyone hijack your glasses with the “Okay Glass” command even if they’re not the ones wearing them.

The potential for these wearables providing timely information and recording biometrics can also be a pitfall. Retailers like Nordstrom’s are already tracking their customers’ mobile phones to gather data about shopping habits. Customers may be okay with this if coupons pop up on their devices for ice cream when in the frozen section of the grocery store, but the invasion of privacy can be scary to some. Sites like Facebook and Amazon track our every click in order to better market to us, what if businesses could literally track your every movement? Wearables could easily record where you go, what gets your heart rate pumping, where you look, etc.

With many restaurants banning food photos with smartphones, what limitations will others want to impose on wearable users? The law always has trouble keeping pace with technology and there has already been one case of a motorist being ticketed for distracted driving for wearing Google Glasses. There are privacy concerns for those around wearable users given how easy it is to photograph or video record others. Some see users as pretentious “Glassholes”, others take real offense to the devices, leading to assaults over fears of being recorded.

Bottom Line

While some may be willing to shell out money to help Google test a product with a long way to go, I agree with Forbes’ Tony Bradley that there are better ways to spend my $1,500. The bugs will be worked out, the prices will come down and acceptance will increase, but for now companies have convinced their customers to pay way too much for products with way too many limitations.

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