Google Project Glass(es) and the Mobile-As-Life-Building Discussion

Some years back, Nokia had this video with their (often maligned) N97 smartphone working alongside a vibrating bracelet and glasses which showed informational overlays to the world around you. I remember seeing that and asking the legit question, “Nokia, if you are able to pull this off, will you also be willing to let go of ever being defined as a mobile manufacturer ever again?”

You see, inside of that question was a simple observation: the mobile is no more important that what it can connect to (hardware and software) and what it enables (experiences). If it were possible for Nokia (or any company) to maneuver outside of that framing (“hey, look; our mobile goes faster than ever in a colorful, candy shell”), then they’d be able to shift the discussion to a potentially life-building one.

Wait, mobiles as part of a life-building discussion? Yea. I dare say that its in that aspect of things that every mobile-framed website (mine included) seems to drop the ball more often than not. You see, the discussion goes something like this:

  • enable competitive spec sheet
  • encourage discussion about the unique (!!) bits
  • have a few applications to highlight whatever isn’t really new
  • talk about experience as being what this enables

But, what if the discussion started from the other end? Started from the end where it was about the experience, and then the competitive spec sheet became the last thing talked about.

We see this with Apple’s products to some degree with their marketing. The i(device) is shown in contexts where people are using it to some expected end (connecting with others, working out, drawing, etc.), with usually some highlighting of an application or two that Apple might not have made to make those things possible. At the end, there’s some note, small and with quiet surrounding, of the spec they want you to hear (the Retina screen, the wireless ability, the amount of songs it holds, etc.). But you’ve already seen the experiences, and even some of the brands that go along with it. Anything you get after that is a skillful play of that unique bit to get you to say – yea, that works for me, despite whatever spec might be present.

When you look at the Google Glasses video, how about looking at it through that lens. You don’t see the battery life talked about, how much memory, or even the resolution of the camera. You see someone who needs that augmented vision (regular glasses), going the step beyond towards being connected in their everyday life through them, in situations that make sense (in that urban context) towards connectivity, communication, and activity (not much productivity… uhmmm, I wonder why).

Earlier in the day, there were several websites who published their reviews of the Nokia Lumia 900 (a Windows Phone mobile device). Plenty of opinions in range, from the “you should buy this” to the “eh, Nokia can do better.” But, based around specs and the kind of use that people are likely to go, “yea, and… who cares, I don’t do that with my mobile. How does this better connect me to who/what matters without me selling my soul for it?” That kind of analysis of a mobile device only comes from those folks willing to live with it (a) as a primary device, (b) who have no “let’s get more eyeballs” motives, and (c) are genuinely interested in the experience of this device alongside the normal-to-others kind of mobile living. If you will, very rarely are these reviews taking the perspective that “technology is only relevant when its personal;” its more like “this tech is relevant because a few large companies said so, and they need you to know they matter too.”

Isn’t life a bit more than just stroking egos? I’ve been built as a person asked to see beyond race, religion, tech, and culture for the cause of helping folks just get life done. I see in that perspective that its got to be more than “oooh, wow” features that makes this work. And at the same time, I’m looking through my own glasses, wondering about that Nokia video alongside this Google video and saying, “yea, that could work in spaces for me, what’s the cost to me personally?”

Google’s Project aims to further blur the line between what’s online and what’s offline. Some of us have already done that (with varying degrees of consequence). Does the experience shown there create an avenue where I or anyone can say “yea, that will improve my life and the lives of others around me?” If yes. Then as a real product, I would hope that comes across in the reviews. If it doesn’t, then all we have is yet another attack to the spec sheet – with the experience of living as more than an orgainc ad-bot as nothing signifiant at all.

And this is from the guy who challenged Google to come out with these instead of yet-another-black-slab.

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