Digital Life

Google Glass will not succeed: FitBit designer Gadi Amit

Google Glass will not be a commercial success, according to Gadi Amit, who designed one of the world's most popular wearable technology gadgets.

Apart from the fact that the relatively simple functionality doesn't offer consumers a compelling reason to change their appearance, Amit said Google's spectacle-mounted computer has a number of design flaws that disrupt our innate social expectations.

"Overall it's a remarkable attempt to breakthrough, but quite lacking on the social emotional level," the founder of San Francisco-based NewDealDesign said ahead of his presentation at Sydney's Vivid festival, On Designing Devices We Love.

Israeli-born Amit designed the FitBit bracelet, which features sensors that measure the wearer's walking, running and sleeping patterns. In the first quarter of 2014, according to analyst firm Canalys, FitBit accounted for nearly half the world's 2.7 million shipped units of "basic" wearable bands.

Google's face-computer creates an "amazingly negative social impact" by obscuring the wearer's eye, Amit said. Also, the lack of a warning light or shutter, which closes the camera's pupil, provides no notification of when others are being recorded or photographed.

"We are humans, we interact with our eyes," he said. "The eyes are our representation of our soul, our emotion, our personality, much more than any element of our bodies.

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"By putting something in front of the eye, you're obscuring your fellow from you. It is a major disruption from human communication."

He has previously said that the design should be "personal" and "intimate".

Google Glass has suffered a huge backlash in the US, Amit said, a claim substantiated by a growing number of anti-Glass media articles.

The biggest problem isn't the technical flaws or the tension headaches, according to a Washington Post reporter who sported the high-tech spectacles for a week, but rather the unwanted attention attracted in the form of suspicion and pity.

Beyond the well-known and parodied privacy issues, it has even come to epitomise Silicon Valley's divide between rich and poor. A protester stole the device from the face of an artless journalist reporting on a rally against Silicon Valley hubris - a Google employee had recently evicted several tenants after buying and moving into a home in the area.

Kyle Russell, the journalist, admitted it may not have been the best idea to wear Glass after an anti-Google protest, but the response to his tweets and cries for sympathy was unforgiving.

Of the incident, Valleywag's Sam Biddle wrote that Glass had crossed over into its "own kind of stigma".

"Google Glass isn't just a $1500 computer you wear on your face, but an icon, an antisocial fetish. It's a decision to dress yourself up like a mascot of techie incursion, to adorn your face with an expensive toy at a time when the toy factory has never been hated more," Biddle wrote in the event's wake.

Google admits it's a work in progress. Ed Sanders, director of marketing for Google Glass recently told Slate, “the device in our opinion is thrilling but not ready for prime time".

To address the negative perceptions, Google published "the top 10 Glass myths," including "Glass is only for those privileged enough to afford it," and "Glass Explorers [the sobriquet given to beta testers] are technology-worshipping geeks". It also released a series of dos-and-don'ts to not be a "glasshole".

Google Glass has trialled the device in countless ways, from helping breastfeeding mothers adjust their technique to charities using the technology to solve "real world problems".

Recently the company struck a deal with Luxottica Group, maker of the Ray Ban sunglasses, to design a new kind of frame, and hired former Calvin Klein and Swatch designer and marketer, Ivy Rose, who said this is the first time anyone has used an "especially cool" device like Glass to solve social problems.

"With your help, I look forward to answering the seemingly simple, but truly audacious questions Glass poses: Can technology be something that frees us up and keeps us in the moment, rather than taking us out of it? Can it help us look up and out at the world around us, and the people who share it with us?" Rose wrote on her Google+ page.

Amit said the process of integrating technology into our physical engagements, relationships, and awareness, had only just begun.

"They're very challenging. At its core it's still somewhat unwilling technology that's not easy to morph to the face or the human contours, and beyond that there's a lot of psychological conditions. I've even dealt with issues of gender.

"These are way more intricate and way more personal objects. They're very close to the skin, very close to our personality, and it's very much a reflection on our self image."

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