In over the top manner in which Google announced Project Glass got more airtime than the concept/product itself. Yes, live sky divers and bikers are a pretty damn cool way to demonstrate the possibilities of a product. Let’s all clap for the PR folks. But now we can come down off the Hollywood action flick high that this launch fomented and look at Project Glass in the cold light of day. What Google presented is a completely fantastical use case.
Frankly I find the more down to earth (in both the literal and figurative sense) implications even more fascinating than the stunt. Starting with sex (naturally). Alex Wilhelm of The Next Web posited:
Even though what your partner would be seeing is…you (well, in many cases…) so you could also achieve this with a mirror or two and not with decidedly unsexy headgear that costs $1500. But I digress. But I think his comment also belies the narcissistic ways that people will undoubtedly use this technology–as a way to get instantaneous feedback about themselves (hello iPhone 4’s front-facing camera)–as opposed to the more aspirational “learn more about your world” applications that Google is touting.
Speaking of narcissism, Jolie O’Dell had an interesting perspective (as ever) on a product that might induce even more of it. She wasn’t so much impressed with the cool factor of the technology itself but more disgusted that our culture that would welcome a technology that is literally in your face.
But I’m concerned that, more and more, we tech-obsessed few are starting to share without asking why we’re sharing in the first place. Everything from our food to our kids to our locations gets plastered onto the web, even though there’s very little impetus to do so aside from vanity. We’re sharing for sharing’s sake, and I would have thought it might have grown a little stale by now.
O’Dell wonders if the production of all this high volume, low value content is really just an exercise in extreme vanity. After all who has time to sift through all that overshared, underwhelming content? Is there value in it at all? Or is it just a circular game of self-congratulation?
Which brings me to my point about curation. I’m less interested in how people will use Project Glass to share, because share they will–and the majority of the content won’t be from skydiving bikers. I’m much more interested in the stream of information that might appear in front of your eyes with this device. It’s your world, but annotated. Which at first blush seems like that might be useful, or at least cool for a week or two.
But who does the annotation is where the power lies. It’s why “influencers” are so elevated and so sought after. We give influencers the power to the be the ultimate curators–to cut through clutter and point to the “important” content.
Influencers make the web smaller for us, not larger. In many ways, this is a good thing. Because we don’t need more content; what we do need is to find the content that’s truly important to us quickly and easily. Sure some curation tools exist, but there’s nothing quite yet that’s intuitive from both a discovery perspective and a learned behavior perspective. Which is why curation (and especially good curation) is still in many ways a manual task and why we value those who can do it well (or at least those who are rumored to do it well).
And that’s the (multi) million dollar question–how do we shift the attention from technologies that are focused on creating more and more content, to smart tools that will learn to deliver and anticipate what individuals find important in cooperation with input from the user. That type of functionality has made its way into a few platforms, but there’s nothing holistic yet.
Although the technology seems interesting, I don’t think Project Glass adds a whole lot to the conversation. At least not from what I’ve seen so far. Especially considering Google’s track record–a company that has proved that it can figure out what content humans search for, but can’t figure out why humans seek out each other.
A steady stream of consumption that one wears on the face seems more like passive absorption (and much too much like 1984) than like active consideration and participation. If that’s all Project Glass can deliver, then it will become like TV, something people turn on by default to fill the silence (even when there’s “nothing” on).
We suffer from a surfeit of riches when it comes to content. To make all this information truly useful (neither overwhelming in terms of volume nor underwhelming in terms of quality) consumers still need to co-create and manage their social channels and various information streams–all while using tools woefully inadequate to the task.
Show me the product that can unravel that riddle, and we’ll have something truly revolutionary.