And apparently iOS 7 doesn't make it waterproof, either. Everything is a lie.

What Can The Technology Industry Learn From Art?

Over the past few years, I’ve studied a field known as arts entrepreneurship. What this means is that I’ve been studying how people perceive and value art, and learned how to start and maintain an effective business in the arts sphere. These practices result in a different business mentality than what I’ve been used to working in technology, and learning how the arts economy works has been incredibly valuable. Over time, I’ve been thinking about how these practices can be applied to the tech industry to let innovative products succeed where traditional business practices would fail.

(A quick side note: When I mention to others that I want to merge the technology and art industries, many people think I’m just referring to industrial design. What I’m talking about isn’t the idea of just bringing more aesthetic value into how products look - it’s about the way you market the product, the way people use it, and the way the value of an item is perceived. It’s more about creative direction and properly manifesting a vision/idea than it is about just creating an item.)

And apparently iOS 7 doesn't make it waterproof, either. Everything is a lie.
Caution: Merging technology and art in too literal of a sense can lead to broken dreams and voided warranties.


One of the lessons I’ve learned about these two economic spheres is how a product’s value is perceived by the mass market. In both industries, there are two broad categories of target markets: creators and consumers. In art, the creators are the artists themselves, and the consumers are the people who purchase works of art. In technology, software developers largely fill the role of creators, and everybody else who utilizes technology as an end user is a consumer. The arts market generally produces entirely separate products for creators and consumers, while in technology, facets of the same product are presented to the two groups in different ways.

If we look at the creators in both categories, we can see how products are presented differently in each sphere. Products marketed to artists are always presented as a vector through which they can create their art, rather than simply something to play with and try out. This mentality is most obvious in visual art, as the packaging and advertising for products visual artists use are always populated by other pieces of visual art, with less of a focus on the tool itself. In some other arts, the distinction is less apparent (particularly with music, as the end result of a product can be harder to convey without audio), but if you look carefully you can still see these practices taking place in most artistic products.

In technology, the specs of a product are most always presented front and center, and there’s a much clearer mentality of purchasing something to “tinker with” rather than having a clear end goal in mind. Rather than viewing the product as something which serves a clear purpose, tech gadgets are often presented as a collection of cool features with an open platform for development, asking the community of creators to help define an explicit use case for the product rather than portraying a use case front and center.

...Or Batman. I'm universe impartial.
...which doesn't stop these products from being COMPLETELY AWESOME, however. Using a Leap Motion with my coding setup makes me feel like Iron Man.

Now, let's look at the end consumers for both economies. In the arts, the end product isn't often a utilitarian item: in other words, people normally don't go out looking for a painting with a very specific size, color balance, or brush technique (interior designers aside, of course). Instead, sales normally happen when a work's aesthetic value resonates with someone in the right way, and they decide that they want it. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but there is a very defined contrast in buying patterns when it comes to pieces of art against technology products.

In the tech world, every end product is bought to fill a need. Cell phones are looking to be the fastest and have the longest battery, laptops need to be compact and powerful work stations, and even watches now battle to provide the most relevant information for the best price and form factor. It's very rare for someone to see a product in passing that they don't need, and instantly purchase it because it struck them in just the right way. That may be because technology often exists at a higher price point than (popular) art, but it still stands that technological purchases are almost always heavily premeditated and need-based consumer decisions predicated on a heavy weighting of competing options.

”The Innovator’s Dilemma” covers the most recent disruptions that occurred in printing technology in a fair amount of detail. That book was published in 1997. ...Screw printers.
...Unless we're talking about printers, in which case we just buy the cheapest one we can and hope its archaic technology and boundless malevolence only impact our lives on occasion.

Why does this distinction matter? Two words: disruptive technologies.

When innovative products emerge, there often isn't a predefined use case for them, however revolutionary they may be. Historically, incremental disruptions have taken hold because their manufacturers found a niche use case for them through which they could continue to grow and develop the product until it could meet the needs of a mass market. However, in consumer markets, it's very difficult to find these niche users and adequately meet their needs when they are set in using their older, more proven technologies that may share much of the same functionality. For this reason, companies with these technologies can greatly benefit from leveraging an artistic/aesthetic method of marketing and positioning their products. Though I hate to fall back on Apple as an example, they have successfully leveraged this thinking multiple times, introducing disruptive products such as the iPod, iPhone, iPad, or pretty much anything that begins with a lowercase "i."

This is just one of the many ways that technology can learn from art. The economies associated with each product class are starkly different, and there are many more lessons that technology could learn from the art world, particularly when it comes to introducing new and innovative products. By merging these two mentalities, we can help to create a world where emerging technologies can let people accomplish consistently greater feats.

Should You Be In Silicon Valley?

Recently, I returned home from an internship in Silicon Valley. Having spent the vast majority of my life in Raleigh, North Carolina, this was an entirely different experience than anything I had ever been through before, and it really opened my eyes to just how different the Valley is from the rest of the country. There are immense opportunities on the West Coast that don’t exist outside of the infamous technological center of the United States, but there are also many aspects of the area that cause me to question whether or not I would like to live there. As such, I thought I’d share my experience for others who might be in the same boat.

Let’s start with the good: SV is rife with opportunity for technology startups and emerging businesses. An enthusiasm for entrepreneurship seems to have infected the entire populace, with so many new apps and ideas being thrown around that it seems like every engineer is busy working on (or simply thinking of) the next big thing. Feeding into this, investor opportunity is everywhere, with venture capitalists searching for promising new businesses and incubators looking for teams to help churn out revolutionary new ideas.

Weren’t Facebook poke wars irritating enough?!
Admittedly, the ratio of revolutionary technology to trivial mobile/web applications isn’t as high as it could be. But we’ll get to that.

Beyond that, the Valley is an engineer’s paradise if for no other reason than the people who live there. In my experience, most (if not every) engineer who works in the area is truly passionate about what they do, and there are copious opportunities for these people to pursue to technologies or play with new ideas. There seems to be some sort of “hackathon” every week put on by some prominent company, and these events are well attended by like-minded people with broad passions and expertise. These, combined with frequent talks about new technologies/practices from industry leaders, form a networking utopia.

Even for non-engineers, the Valley offers a wide range of cultures, giving all kinds of people a place to thrive. San Francisco in particular offers a broad scope of things to do on the weekends, whether you’re a party animal or simply looking to explore different walks of life.

On top of all that, the whole “always 70 degrees and sunny” thing is pretty nice too. I will say that towards the end of my time there, I did miss being able to sit by an open window or on a screen porch to enjoy a heavy rainstorm.

It threatened to rain once. Everyone freaked out a bit.
It legitimately didn’t rain the entire 10 weeks I was in the area. Great for my walking commutes, but probably bad for the persistent drought.

Now, on to the negatives: Silicon Valley is, without a doubt, a bubble. The best way I’ve heard it described was as an “echo chamber”: once one idea gains traction, everyone and their brother is working on an imitator or the same exact technology, looking to make some money while the trend is around. Many ideas proposed in the Valley really don’t solve a broad problem that people outside the core Valley demographic experience, and simply further the notion that Silicon Valley doesn’t really care about the outside world. And yet, investors pour money into them like there’s no tomorrow. It feeds into a sort of arrogance about the area, where residents believe that those outside of Silicon Valley are beneath them somehow, and that there is little value in doing things outside of the software space.

<lame joke about “liquid assets” goes here>
Essentially, this is the only concept of “making it rain” that exists in the Valley.

Much of the technology that has emerged within the Valley has been hurtful to the community at large. Some startups will make a business out of reserving public goods, such as parking spots and restaurant reservations, and offering them at premiums through their applications. This ends up boxing many people out from these goods and results in empty, unpurchased spots/reservations that hurt the owners of these establishments. This phenomenon has gotten a fair amount of media attention, but so far, there doesn’t seem to have been a huge response to such things.

There’s also the cost of living. Granted, the salaries software engineers make out there tend to make up for the difference fairly well, but those in pretty much any other profession are likely going to find themselves strapped. Apartments in the area are ludicrously expensive, with a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco easily costing several times what it would in Raleigh (as an example). As such, most people living out there have to sacrifice apartment quality if they want to find a reasonably priced place to stay.

Transportation is also a hassle out there. While many companies have shuttles to take their employees to/from work at certain times, people living in unserviced parts of the Valley have to deal with an immense amount of traffic. This is true for any densely populated area, however, and is more of a minor concern. (Plus, the fact that there are intergalactic spaceboats of light and wonder everywhere lends some welcome eye candy to the commute.)

Basically, if you’re in the situation where you’re choosing whether or not to live in the Valley, ask yourself if the positives outweigh the negatives. It’s a fantastic place to be for developing engineers, and there are tons of like-minded people starting careers in the area. Living in Silicon Valley is an experience you aren’t going to find anywhere else in the world: if the area appeals to you, you won’t regret your decision.

Drawing guitars is surprisingly hard on a tablet.

Has Music Been Commoditized?

The digital revolution has done a number of great things for the music industry. In recent years, music has become increasingly accessible, both in the way we purchase and consume the art. The first incarnation of the iPod/iTunes ecosystem was a major breakthrough on both these fronts, with services like Napster, Rhapsody, and Grooveshark changing the game for music ownership and discovery. SoundCloud has provided a simple and straightforward way for people to share and discover independent artists, and Shazam has paved the way for music discovery/identification in the real world.

Still, for all the advances that have been made, the music industry is in a tough spot - for musicians, at least. A documentary called “The Distortion of Sound” highlights some of the troubles regarding how an artist’s work is received by their audiences. Though it misrepresents some of the technical details of the process (which is understandable, as it aims to show differences in sound quality using YouTube as a vector) it does portray the way art is filtered to adapt to the new models of consumption: valuing storage space and pure volume over sound quality and dynamics. Many of the subtler nuances artists instill in their works are never heard by most audiences, whether that be due to subpar listening equipment or albums distributed in compressed and adulterated form.

Drawing guitars is surprisingly hard on a tablet.
We put so much importance on having access to as much music as possible, yet we never truly hear most of it.

Even beyond sound quality, much of the experience built around an artist’s work has been lost to convenience. Consumers used to go to the record store and pick up a CD, reading the album notes and establishing a connection with the artist themselves. We also used to listen to complete albums more than only selecting specific tracks, if only due to the fact that changing albums was a hassle.

The many factors working against experiencing recorded music in its purest form bring about an inconvenient truth: recorded music has become a commodity. Even the newest music is abundantly available through a wide range of channels, including YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora. The concept of being able to own music (though that talk has always been bogged down in licensing technicalities) has increasingly lost relevance, and there is no longer any value in having access to a specific song over any others. The economic value does not exist in the tracks themselves, but in the services provided on top of them - most notably, streaming.

If the music industry is going to evolve again, there will have to be some other value built on top of recorded music. Whether that value is as simple as added insight into the production process or something more experiential, something else needs to be introduced to move the industry forward. Ideally, whatever this is could bring some value back to the artists as well, since the industry is currently not fair to those producing the art by any means.

Where to go from here? CHAINSAWS ON FIRE.

Making Choices that Scare You

This week, I sat in a panel discussion with 5 recent college graduates, all working at the same company as myself. The topic was career development, and each of them shared their perspectives on the subject, along with the experiences they’d had on their respective paths. Though all of the advice we received was valuable in its own right, one quote in particular stood out:

“Always take the offer that scares you more.”

Part of why this idea struck me is that it’s starkly different from every other piece of advice you normally receive as an impending/recent college graduate. In my experience, most people advise you to figure out a plan, and then to make it happen. This challenge-based mentality suggests a sacrifice of not knowing where you’ll end up, but going along for the ride and learning everything you can along the way.

There are many different rationales for this manner of thinking, but the one the speaker chose was this: if you take a job you aren’t afraid of, you’ll probably do well, but you won’t be challenged or learn very much as a result. If you’re offered a position you feel you aren’t prepared for at all, you’ll likely be surrounded by people much smarter than you, and you will learn and grow immensely throughout the duration of your employment. Every day will bring about new challenges, and by the time you’ve gotten truly comfortable with what you’re doing, you can move on to your next adventure and start the process anew.

Where to go from here? CHAINSAWS ON FIRE.
Disclaimer: Some types of fear are probably healthier than others.

Personally, I believe that this attitude could be applied to any aspect of your life, even outside of any sort of career. Every day, you have the opportunity to grow into a more complete and objectively better person than you were the day before, and you do that by stepping outside your comfort zone. If you don’t push yourself, you don’t evolve, and you fall into a form of personal stagnancy - and once you fall into that state, you lose the game.

This being said, this is the sort of mentality that should be taken with a grain of salt. Just because something scares you doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an opportunity to grow: there are plenty of frightening opportunities out there, but it’s the wrong type of fear. The fear you should embrace is that which you can utilize once you overcome - an obstacle that better equips you to chase your passions and follow your dreams. Taking a position simply because it doesn’t seem to fit you is generally ill-advised, and could result in more confusion than it’s worth.

You know, he probably SAW it coming at some point...
This is not professional development. This is early retirement, at best.

Next time you’re faced with a choice between two paths, think first about what you want to drive towards, and then think about which of the choices you’re most scared of. Chances are, the offer that scares you most will be the one with the highest reward, and you’ll never find yourself wishing you had taken the easier road.

If you're the guy on the left, read below.

What It Means To Have a Plan In Your 20s

Ask anybody in their 20s what their plan for the rest of their life is, and you’ll likely get a wide range of responses. Whether they’re in college, at their first “real” job, taking time for personal development or any other of a plethora of possibilities, you’re likely to get a broad scope of options that ultimately resolve to the same core message:

“I have no [choice adjective] idea.”

There are so many societal pressures on young adults to have their life together and know exactly what they’re doing with their future, yet there are so few people who truly have it figured out. Every now and again, you ask someone this question and they give you a well-thought out layout of their next few jobs and a near-perfect estimation of where their life is going and exactly how they’re going to get there. I tell people my projected career path, and they often make some sarcastic remark about a “man with a plan” or some similar quip.

There’s a secret about trying to predict your future, though: your plan isn’t going to hold up any better than anybody else’s (or lack thereof). No matter how much planning you do, reality is always there to throw you a curveball that puts your meticulous career orchestration to shame. Many people combat this inevitable truth by crafting a branching roadmap of possibilities based on opportunity and projected failures, allowing them to hit the ground running if and when they get knocked down.

I am a leaf in the wind; watch me soar.
If you get the opportunity, though... you reboot Firefly. Roadmaps be damned.

Does this mean you shouldn’t be finding a direction and taking control of your life? Not in the slightest. By all means, find your passion, translate it into a real-world ambition, and from that, derive the drive with which you realize your dreams. If you have the desire to achieve a vision, any curveball life throws you is a new way to manifest that goal.

Passion is the greatest semblance of a plan you can ever have. It’s an ideal that can’t be killed; a motivating force that becomes the reason why you do what you do (and gives you a leg up in communicating your goals). It pushes you to take risks when you become professionally or personally stagnant, and lets you feel that there’s always something more that you can reach for. Few people ever became truly fulfilled by doing exactly what everybody tells them they should be doing - that is, unless your passion happens to be a 9-5 desk job.

If you're the guy on the left, read below.
...Which isn’t actually unheard of. All the more power to you. I’m serious.

However, if what you’ve just read makes you uncomfortable, I invite you to reflect on your true passion. Find something you love to do, and chase it. Capitalize on the vast amount of opportunity in the world, and think outside the box: often, the greatest opportunity to do what you love is found where you least expect it. Pay attention to industries you may not have given a serious thought to before, and think of where you can plug yourself in and create success - both monetarily, and in manifesting your own personal passion.

Diagram made me hungry for eggs. Eggs are never a bad decision.

The Power of "Why"

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

This is the core message behind Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” This talk was brought to my attention about a week ago, and Sinek makes a number of valuable observations throughout the duration of the presentation. One of the concepts he centers his ideas on is the “golden circle,” a codification of the manner of communication that can turn a simple marketing pitch into an emotionally moving and powerful statement.

For those who have not seen this presentation, the “golden circle” focuses on the layers of communication you can use to promote a product, whether that be a commercial product or a novel idea. The outermost layer is the “what,” or the actual product that is being presented. Within that is the “how,” or the way that you provide a better product than your competition.

Then, at the center of the circle, lies the most powerful value behind the product: the “why.”

Diagram made me hungry for eggs. Eggs are never a bad decision.
Sinek's "Golden Circle" diagram

In order to truly understand this concept, pick a product that has great value to you. This could be any product at all: Sinek chooses to focus on Apple products, but there are multiple companies that have utilized this idea well. (In keeping with the talk’s primary examples, I’ll choose my MacBook Pro for the purpose of this exercise.)

Years of design expertise, squandered in a single drawing.
Nothing in this picture is drawn to scale.

Now, let’s go through the layers of this so-called “golden circle.” The outermost layer concerns “what” the product in question is: in my case, a laptop.

Speaking of eggs, you could probably fry one on the underside of this laptop. Results to follow.
The superheated underside also doesn’t do wonders for your future children. It does, however, make your lap irresistible to cats. (Who wants kids, anyways?)

As you can see, this product really isn’t all that impressive when analyzed at this level… it’s just a laptop, after all. It does laptop things, and despite the rantings and ravings of the High and Mighty iCult, it does laptop things about as well as other laptops do laptop things.

The next layer in the circle ask “how” Apple provides a better product than the competition, and Sinek covers this in his talk: by making their products “beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.” This affords the MacBook Pro a competitive advantage over similar products. The design of this computer is undeniably beautiful, especially when compared to the matte black slabs many technologists use every day. While suitable from a utilitarian perspective, these nondescript form factors lack the aesthetic appeal that has become one of Apple’s hallmarks. Apple puts this same uncompromising focus into their user experience, creating a fluid computing environment that has made them a favorite among many.

Science has proven that cooking an egg on the underside of a laptop does not end well. Be warned.
Not pictured: the irrefutably wonderful lack of Windows Updates.

But Apple’s value doesn’t stop there: the real difference lies in “why” they do what they do. Apple is known for disrupting markets with innovative products that are both beautiful and perfectly functional. Their drive to “think different” creates an image of them as a company that pushes the envelope and endlessly strives to challenge the public notions of what presently is, and also what can be in the future. This mentality brings another dimension to the product in the form of Apple’s intrinsic value: a passion for disruption and innovation.

Which, in turn, drives the unwavering devotion of the aforementioned iCult.

Once I figured out I couldn't copy and paste the people bowing, I kind of got lazy.
Artist’s (hastily drawn) rendition. Actual congregation happens at 4x the pixel density discernible to the human eye, and includes considerably more Helvetica Neue.

Now that the three layers of this model have been isolated, think about the way Apple markets themselves: their ads, their product reveals, and even their stores. They never put the product out there first. Instead, they always somehow allude to their vision as a company, and tell the customer “why” they do what they do. Then, lo and behold, there just so happens to be a fancy computer or a slick phone in front of your eyes. Seems pretty appealing, doesn’t it?

Now that we’ve driven the Apple point home, let’s look at the concept in another context - music. Before we do this, think about your answer to an incredibly simple question: “What music do you listen to?” Think it through, and come up with a few examples.

Got it? Good.

If you’re like most people in Western culture, you’ve probably listed off a few bands you enjoy. Westerners tend to emphasize the artist over the art in many cases, which explains why bands tend to get such loyal followings throughout their careers. It also helps explain why, when bands change their style or evolve, they are often accused of “selling out” and end up with an alienated and jilted fanbase.

Beyond a certain point, people are no longer buying the music solely for the music’s own merit, but out of devotion and loyalty to the band who performs it. It’s clearly not commoditized at that point, so this purchase decision doesn’t happen on the “what” level of thinking, or even the “how.” The buyer has bought into why the band makes the music they do, and look for that value in the product they release. When a band changes their style, this value has changed and their product is no longer authentic.

The “why” is the real power behind the brand.

There are many more examples to demonstrate the power of the golden circle, but the best way to grasp this concept is to try it out in everyday conversation. Next time you explain what you do to someone new, begin by talking about your motivations (“why”) instead of your occupation (“what”). See how much more powerful your points come across, and observe the reactions you get from the people you’re talking to. Chances are, if you “market yourself” in this way, you’re going to get a stronger reaction than if you simply say “I write code,” or “I design computers.”

Even if you aren’t selling anything: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Google Glass Isn't the Future - But It Paves an Interesting Path

When information first started leaking about Google’s augmented reality headset, Google Glass, the tech industry instantly clamored over the profound effect it would have on the entire technology industry. Google took the challenge of introducing a novel product category that people had never seen outside of science fiction, and reactions ranged from erratic excitement to critical caution. It was a risky move, but Google had a plan to make sure the technology lived up to the many promises it had made.

As it turns out, Glass didn’t quite live up to all of these promises, but Google still released an impressive prototype that suggests great things to follow.

I’ve been working on a research project involving Glass for the past 4 months or so, and have gotten a chance to develop for, tinker with, and evaluate many aspects of the hardware. I also had the opportunity to experiment with smaller side projects for these smart glasses during this time, including an Imgur client triggered by the phrase “OK Glass, waste my time,” and a simple modification to the hardware itself which improves usability and the cultural stigma of wearing Glass in public dramatically (pictured below).

I refrained from doing this for 3 days after coming up with the pun. Not sure why.
Googley Glass: One of the many reasons why I shouldn't have nice things.

Developing for Glass

The first thing I investigated upon getting a hold of Google Glass was how well it worked as a base piece of hardware. At its most basic, Glass is comprised of a trackpad, a camera (which was much higher quality than I expected from such a small unit), and a small glass prism. This prism projects a floating rectangular display - using the power of magic and dreams, I assume - which appears to hover in front of your face whenever the hardware is active. Though a far cry from the initial claim of “augmented reality,” it’s still very cool to experience.

Glass suffers certain usability issues, as is to be expected from a first-generation product. The general paradigm of the trackpad has the user swipe back and forth to scroll through lists, swipe down to go back, and tap to select a menu item. However, the trackpad often confuses gestures, resulting in some frustration when attempting to navigate menus quickly. The battery life of the unit is also abysmal: if you plan on using Glass for any extended period of time, you may be out of luck. (Google has actually stated that Glass is designed to be used in short bursts in their Do’s and Don’ts for Glass Explorers, which may be partially due to the battery life issue.)

I’ve also observed other minor issues about the hardware, such as the fact that the unit runs hot under any sort of load, and the fact that the frame design has nothing to keep the Glass on your left ear should you decide to look down, creating a fear of moving your head too quickly while wearing it. Both of these concerns illustrate some shortcomings in design for the device, which likely should have been considered more highly for a unit Google wants people to wear on their faces.

In short, here’s how I see the Google Glass headset as a developer:

"Magic cyber cube" sounds a bit more whimsical than "glass box thing."
Google Glass, as seen by developers.

Through the Looking Glass

The technology behind Glass is innovative, there’s no doubt about that. However, I believe it’s important to consider the cultural implications of disruptive products such as this. Glass is as much a fashion accessory as it is a gadget, as it requires users to wear it through most of the day in order to capitalize on its utility. With this role, it is expected that Glass provide its functionality without otherwise impairing the wearer’s day to day life.

However, this is not the case. In my experience wearing Glass, I spent the entire day making a semi-conscious effort to look past the little magic prism that resided directly in front of my face. In conversations with others, I noticed that Glass obstructed some interactions, and observed those with whom I was speaking looking back and forth between my eyes and the suspiciously unassuming camera that also happened to be staring at them from beside my eyes.

Another interesting aspect of Glass is that no one knows what you’re seeing. All anybody else can see while the wearer interacts with Glass is that person swiping and tapping on the trackpad, leaving others to simply stand there and look bewildered. This leaves a large amount of ambiguity, more so than when someone takes out their phone to respond to a text (or even checks a notification on a smart watch, for that matter). This wouldn’t be an issue if there weren’t already privacy concerns surrounding Glass, such as whether or not a person is being filmed by the unit at any time.

If you navigate any sort of menu with Glass in public, odds are you will attract the confused stares of those who are witnessing you staring intently into nothing and twiddling with your robot glasses.
Google Glass, as seen by bystanders/acquaintances.

Now, this doesn’t even take into account the cultural status of Glass. Glass is one of the most expensive and distinguished gadgets on the market, and is really only worn by the tech-savvy and rich. People’s reactions to seeing it in public can be radical, with multiple accounts of wearers being mugged for the headset, particularly on the West Coast. Clearly, those with criminal intent see Glass as an easy target, which isn’t easy to argue with.

The silver lining: You will be able to walk more than 10 feet without somebody asking to try on your glasses.
Google Glass, as seen by burglars on the street.

Even so, the majority of people I came across were genuinely interested in the technology and excited for the opportunity to try it. Many of those who tried the hardware took a while to adjust to Glass’ unique control paradigm, and were generally enthralled by the unprecedented experience, yet skeptical of the device’s use case. It’s worth noting that I never wore the device in public areas - only in my place of work and in certain buildings around my university - but I never had any reactions as violent or derogatory as some Glass Explorers have experienced. Overall, there was a wide spectrum of reactions ranging from the most whimsical enjoyment to a generally unimpressed “huh,” though the device seemed to have an inexplicable allure to most/all of the people who approached me.

Much expensive. Wow.
Google Glass, as seen by the general public.

The Future Google Created

Given all of these critiques, as technologists, we have to remember that Glass is a first-generation product. Google not only had the task of creating a product people would love to use, they also had to lay the groundwork for an entire genre of wearable tech - and in this task, they have set the path for a very interesting future.

The design of Glass is inescapably distinctive, which results in a “double-edged sword” challenge. On one hand, it will probably never truly be accepted into popular culture in its current form, as it’s just too different for many people to comfortably handle. On the other hand, this shock factor lowers the risk of entry for other Glass competitors who want to create more normal-looking smart glasses. With Glass having gained the amount of notoriety it has, the public has been forcibly adjusted to accept that this sort of technology is out there, and a company that can manage to fit this technology in a more accepted form could have the golden ticket to making these gadgets practical.

Glass has also offered solutions to several of the problems facing the genre of smart glasses, such as interaction style, control layouts, and potential intrusiveness. While these solutions aren’t bulletproof by any means, they give competitors a template to base their future efforts on, and provide a concrete implementation of the ideas needed to make a device like this a success.

Personally, I believe the future of these devices will rest on what competitors do to ensure that their products succeed as fashion accessories, as well as gadgets. The smartwatch industry faces the same issue, and both of these subclasses of wearable tech have a ways to go before they become ingrained in society in the same way as the smartphone, if that’s even achievable for these devices. Most (if not all) of the technology needed for this revolution already exists, it’s just a matter of putting it together in an appealing and practical way - and then proving a practical use case that will entice people to bite the bullet and accept these devices as the wave of the future.