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Google Glass will not succeed: FitBit designer Gadi Amit

Date

Mahesh Sharma

Gadi Amit, designer of the FitBit, sees major problems with Google Glass.

Gadi Amit, designer of the FitBit, sees major problems with Google Glass. Photo: New Deal Design

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.

Bad wrap: Google Glass.

Bad wrap: Google Glass.

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.

Connected: FitBit Force uses sensors to track your walking and sleeping patterns.

Connected: FitBit Force uses sensors to track your walking and sleeping patterns. Photo: New Deal Design

"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."

45 comments

  • Alot of people love to show their success, status and power. What better way than with a head mounted camera and computer interface. At once is screams that the wearer can afford the $1500 novelty device, they have the disposable income, they have something others around them dont, they are important enough to be engaged with the device whilst interacting with you, me, others and they have the power to invade our privacy without us being able to control this invasion, and to record us without our knowledge.

    No, there are enough narcissists and sociopaths out there to make this a screaming success.

    Commenter
    Love
    Location
    In the age of Ebola
    Date and time
    May 29, 2014, 10:00AM
    • I could imagine the same was said of the people who owned the first refrigerators, washing machines and motor vehicles.

      Eventually you'll have to get with the times, or get left behind. The choice is completely up to you.

      Commenter
      btg
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 10:57AM
    • The price will come down, as it does with all high-tech products. The device (or its successors) will become less obtrusive. We are headed towards a world where everyone will be connected 24/7. It doesn't appeal to me, but I don't see any way of stopping it without going down the North Korea road.

      Commenter
      Greg Platt
      Location
      Brunswick
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 11:24AM
    • People that buy into these expensive trends do so because they want other people to think differently about them (envy, desire, cool factor, wealth, etc.). I agree with the article that Google Glass can't provide this.
      Most significantly (IMO) is the intrusive aspect. Try light a cigarette in a cafe while having breakfast these days and it would surprise me if another patron tried to forcefully eject you. Google Glass is already having the same effect. What is the wearer seeing on their screen. Are they looking at it now? Are they recording you? etc.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Oz
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 1:21PM
    • Btg,

      Refrigerators, washing machines and motor vehicles, when first introduced, were never used to access a global network of information and search you up in real time, nor record your speech or image in either still or video format and then post it to said network, again in near real time.

      No, glass just doesn't compare with past disruptive tech like you mentioned.

      Every 'solution' humankind attempts to impose on the world becomes another problem at some point. Looks like glass wont be any different.

      By being a solution looking for a problem, glass has already become a problem looking for a solution...

      Commenter
      Love in the age of Ebola
      Location
      See what I did there? Man that's deep...
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 11:57PM
  • Agree completely

    Remember Internet fridges? Not to mention ideas and concepts from who knows how long, that have all come and gone. However, innovations such as these are needed to test the market. It's the future iterations or spin-offs from the technology that will find its way into consumer land.

    For those with long enough memories, Ralph Sarich's Orbital Engine was going to change the motoring world as we once knew it. Now Ralph, didn't make too much money from the engine itself, but became one of WA's most wealthiest via the scores of patents for much smaller elements of the orbital engine.

    With Google Glass, the biggest threat is the 'douche-bag' syndrome.

    Commenter
    $keptic
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    May 29, 2014, 10:17AM
    • I watched a report on 60 minutes in which a woman was assaulted for wearing those glasses into a bar, I don't think it has anything to do with the camera blocking part of the eye, it has to do with total surveillance. Enough of our data is collected through the internet we don't need Google collecting it through private citizens and If I had someone looking at me with a pair on their head there would be a problem and most people that are tech savvy would not embrace this product.

      Commenter
      Geoff
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 10:19AM
      • Gee Geoff - I'd be more concerned with Governments' (ours and especially our "allies" like good ole' Uncle Sam) increasingly invasive - and secretive - incursions into our lives than with a gadget worn - in plain sight - by some technogeek who is probably using it to find a decent coffee joint. My prediction - When they become completely unobtrusive and cheap, EVERYONE be using some form of them... and wondering how folks ever found stuff without them...

        Commenter
        Chris J
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        May 29, 2014, 11:16AM
      • I agree Chris. This is effectively a prototype they're selling to select nerds and developers. Once it becomes commercial, there will be different options. No doubt they will open it up to other manufacturers too for a licence fee. It is the Google way.

        Commenter
        Nick
        Location
        Perth
        Date and time
        May 29, 2014, 12:31PM
    • "It breaks the number one rule of fashion, it's dorky! Wearables will play a part in the future, but they'll be relatively hidden, accessories. Only the geeks at Google could miss this. In other words, give a nerd a billion dollars and he's still a nerd"

      Commenter
      Greg
      Date and time
      May 29, 2014, 10:51AM

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