BLOG: Will Google Glass arrive at retail or is it just a beautiful PR stunt?

Gekko MD Dan Todaro asks whether the wearable tech will reach the hands of the consumer
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Gekko MD Dan Todaro asks whether Glass, the upcoming wearable tech from Google, will ever reach the hands of the consumer.

We simply cannot escape talk around Google Glass. It’s as ubiquitous as the Beckham's and their PR allure. Ever since Google Glass hit the media, I feel like it’s an established and viable product as modelled by the curly-haired model in the original promotional photo, which the media are still using.

But despite years of buzz, the consumer is still no closer to adding the glasses to their ever-expanding tech kit. So is Google Glass just a clever PR stunt that refuses to give up, or are we set to see the product reach the hands of who matters, the consumer?

Google Glass seems to have been everywhere but the shop shelves. Diane von Furstenberg used the product on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, while Virgin Atlantic has tied up with the brand for flight crew to check in passengers on selected trans-Atlantic flights.

Brands want to build partnerships with this newsworthy, futuristic piece of innovation and why wouldn’t they when Google Glass is experiencing media frenzy? It’s exposure on a scale any brand desires, singling out its brand through association as the future now.

But no one has had more positive brand awareness than Google itself, which is why this could all be a bubble about to burst. There are many hoops the brand has to overcome before it’s ready for public consumption.

It is heavily tested and commented on by the BBC’s Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, who states: “So far, I'm intrigued by the possibilities that Glass offers, but not convinced that the user interface is up to scratch."

LEGAL DOUBTS

Doubt clouds Glass sceptics as to the viability of the product in the face of increasing privacy rules and pressure on Google to respect these rules. Even in preliminary testing phases, Google Glass has opened a Pandora's Box of legal concerns. If it does become the next big thing in wearable technology, what are the ramifications for intellectual property and personal privacy when somebody can secretly film or take a picture of you with, literally, the wink of an eye?

It's now standard practice to see all manner of things documented online by people when using one hand with a mobile phone; what will happen when they are given glasses that make it possible for them to be recorded with two hands? Google responded by making modifications that would make this harder to do, but hackers will be only too happy to quickly find ways around those measures.

A report out highlights the fears consumers have over privacy issues pertaining to the product. It was found that 72 per cent of Americans cited privacy concerns as the biggest reason for not wanting to wear Glass. Those polled were especially concerned about the possibility of hackers accessing personal data and revealing personal information, including location information, Adweek reported.

That’s not to say I don’t applaud Google for this extravagant teaser campaign. It’s been executed extraordinarily well and it has built up a buzz and anticipation that may explode into fireworks or a flame, leaving us wanting more, but when’s the launch date?

TEASING THE CROWD

If it does indeed arrive into the retail space, I can only imagine it will be a watered down variant of the present. But the fact that Ray-Ban sunglasses maker Luxottica announced last month that it has sealed a strategic partnership with Google over its Glass eyewear surely only adds fuel to the fire of concerns over privacy intrusion.

Imagine sitting on a train opposite someone who appears to be wearing a regular pair of Ray Bans, when really they’re analysing your data – it’s just not acceptable in a democratic society. Or has democracy gone full circle where the insistence on knowing everything has now come to threaten our right to privacy?

Nonetheless, this innovation, in which ever form it manifests itself, will eventually land in a retailer near you (I hope) and it will need investment in dedicated, knowledgeable brand representatives who can create the right consumer engagement with those cost conscious shopper tribes. This must be a priority if they are to make a connection with consumers and help them understand how this innovation works to enhance their day-to-day lives, to leave them with a memorable impression of both the product that will lead to a sale.

Whether Google Glass comes into the retail space or not, one thing is for sure: this has been an unstoppable PR masterpiece.

About the author

Dan Todaro is MD of field marketing agency Gekko.

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