TL;DR: With Google Glass developers now in full swing, let’s go beyond the basic smartphone app ports, and think about real industries that could be transformed by this new platform. Here’s a framework to hep think about industries, and 5 examples.

We can do better than this first wave of apps

With the hype around Google Glass in full swing now, and while its future is still unclear, it seems that most of the attention has been focused on the pedestrian, or “have-to-have” apps, such as mail, maps, games, and media — with the most progressive thinking still only focused on advertising, retail, and…ahem, other apps.

Not that those aren’t all good, and necessary, things, but when looking at Glass as a transformative platform, simply taking an app from one device and porting it to Glass just won’t get us there. We can do better.

Here I outline a few industries that have the potential to be transformed by Glass, and have a major positive impact, instead of the more dystopic view that others have.

But first, some common industry characteristics

In looking at the disruptive advantage of a technology like Google Glass, I really like using the framework of innovation diffusion by Everett Rogers to help us understand the speed of diffusion. In it, he outlines 7 key factors that underlie innovation diffusion. Using that framework, and zeroing in on what I’d call the “Desirability” factors (Relative Advantage and Observability), instead of the “Feasibility” (Compatibility, Complexity and Trialability), or “Viability” factors (Social Acceptability, Regulatory), some common industry characteristics emerge where Glass demonstrates clear, observable, relative advantage over incumbent solutions.

  1. There is a human on the “front-line” of the operation (this is a “wearable” technology after all)
  2. That human requires specialized training, as their job requires on the spot judgment and decision making based on their environment
  3. There exists a multitude of underutilized data, such that the human can be subjected to psychological biases, often resulting in a suboptimal decision (i.e. Glass can help)

So, what we’re looking for are industries where there are experienced personnel making “blink” judgments based on surroundings, by synthesizing lots of immediate and learned data. These industries have the most to gain from an always on, heads-up, augmented reality display capable of immediately recognizing its environment and combining that information with search.

So, here are some ideas…

1) Military / Security / Law Enforcement

The first to immediately come to mind revolve around military, law enforcement, security personnel, and other first responders. In these jobs, one must quickly analyze their surroundings and syntheise both their trainings, as well as new intelligence information to make a quick judgments to determine whether a person or an environment poses a threat, someone is lying, or to analyze a crime scene. Imagine, how the cops in Watertown Massachusetts could have used this in their recent manhunt?

2) Customer Service

The best customer service person you encounter is empathetic and anticipates your needs. I’d love if a Glass-equipped customer service rep could not only recognize me by face and look up my pertinent details, but also read my facial expressions and body language as I was walking up to the counter. Combining both of those, they’d instantly know who I am, what I need, and what mood I’m in. For example, an airline counter rep would immediately know I’m frustrated because I need to reschedule my flight to Chicago for tomorrow’s meeting, due to weather issues. What a totally different interaction that would be!

Any chance there is a United employee reading this?

3) Quality Control

This industry has long used mounted cameras on conveyer belts, to detect defects on the manufacturing flow, but let’s take that notion forward in a human-centric context, whether for consumer or professional use. In the consumer realm, imagine walking onto a used car lot armed with Glass, helping you spot defects, pull up information from various sources for benchmarks, and helping assess value. Taking that to the professional realm could range anywhere from manufacturing to construction, to even insurance claim adjusters.

4) Medical

The vast amount of data that front-line medical professionals need to recall and synthesize is so astounding that  even IBM has deployed Watson to the task. For example, whether in the ER, or at the spot of a crisis, triage is an area where one must quickly diagnose a patient’s symptoms, and recommend a course of action. Tying facial recognition could confirm the patient’s identity and recall their pertinent medical history on the spot, then using image recognition, their symptoms are analyzed on the spot. The result is a powerful solution that streamlines, and increases accuracy. Taking this further, there are certainly additional examples where expensive camera equipment could be replaced with Glass as the primary interface, resulting in major cost savings.

5) Professional Sports

Whether in training, or competition one day, the world of sports requires snap expert judgments, and as we know fields like Sabermetrics and it’s ilk, are increasingly adding in new data-driven methods to analyze and provide information to athlete.

Imagine a few scenarios such as a baseball pitcher seeing a visual scouting report of a batter, with signs being transmitted from the catcher. Or how about in football, where QB’s already have in-helmet audio, but now the wide receiver can visually see their route through augmented reality diagrammed out on the field in front of them. In golf, you;d have a built-in range finder, along with course statistics, wind and weather information, as well as replays of how others got themselves out of difficult situations. In racing sports (like running, skiing, skating, etc) wouldn’t it be great to see your pace compared to your opponent’s, as well as a prompt telling you how much faster you had to run to gain, or keep the lead?

You get the idea…now someone also needs to come up with a cool sports strap accessory.

Conclusion

We’re clearly just at the beginning of a wearable renaissance, and while I love Evernote, GMail, Maps, and local coupons, I’m really anxious for us to get past the digerati-focused apps, and get onto seeing the really interesting and ambitious initiatives transform our lives for the better.

This is just some food for thought, any other ideas?

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