At this time of year everybody seems to be selling something new, but Google is taking it slow. Following a flood of changes to Google Glass, some had suspected it would be hitting the open market in time for Christmas; however, the search engine giant is still talking about launching sometime next year. In the meantime, it has to sell the idea.
Google is doing so by inviting each of its original 10,000 Google Glass Explorers to offer three friends the chance to buy a Glass device for $1,500. The aim would seem to be to expand into a further stage of testing as the device is upgraded, and also to create a socially networked group of early adopters who can effectively promote the device for free, if only by being seen wearing it. Concentrations of Glass wearers spotted in particular cities could create a buzz around the product and intensify consumer interest prior to the big release.
The design of Glass has gone through several changes since its limited initial release, enabling the designers to work around problems without having to deal with millions of disappointed customers or fund huge numbers of replacements. One of the most noticeable things about the new-look device is that it can now comfortably be worn with eyeglasses, whether they are prescription-wear or shades. It has also acquired an earbud after some users complained that they could not get the original speaker, which transmitted sound through bone, to work for them. This move has come as Google has connected Google Play to the system and added a ‘listen to’ voice command, encouraging users to listen to music through the device and to build playlists on its previously-overlooked music streaming site. Finally, it has expanded into a new range of color options for a more personalized user experience.
Where does this leave advertisers? It is still not clear what Glass will have to offer in this regard, though it could potentially be a powerful platform for local search. The improved sound options imply that audio advertising could become more relevant in this context than visual ads, which are made difficult by the small size of the available display. Audio ads tailored to local search could potentially be packaged to offer wearers help in navigating unfamiliar cities at the same time as pointing out nearby retail outlets to them. There are lots of possibilities and it is time to start thinking seriously about them, as Glass is almost upon us.