Google Glass evolving into a brand, fashion statement

This February will mark one year since the Google Explorer program began, which has since offered hundreds of technophiles, journalists, sports players and regular people the opportunity to bring Google Glass into their lives. I still hate Google Glass, and I’ve never been shy to admit it; the technology is overpriced, the concept is all hype, and it’s far less usable than other smart accessories. Still, as we approach the one year anniversary of this product’s consumer launch, and the soon-to-be-announced consumer version of this gadget, I will admit that as much as I dislike Google Glass, it has done for Google all that they wanted it to do and more.

First, let me just briefly remind people why Google Glass, as cool and interesting as it may look on the cover of Wired and from photos you may catch on Instagram or Twitter, it’s far from the kind of smart accessory you want. For starters, it’s just not useful for average users. At best it will help you with reading text messages or making calls, but the entire video and photo aspect of it that Google has shown off falls flat when you’re just an average person. When you want to take a photo or video of something, you normally will take out your camera or your phone and then take the photo or video.

Google Glass argues it’s more convenient to use its lesser quality, but instantly available internal camera, but you can only take photos and videos from your point of view, which is only the minority of moments you usually take photos. In reality, its photo and video mode is made for adventurers who want to go do exciting things and record themselves while doing it “Go Pro” style.

Unless you are an adventurer, Glass just isn’t right for you—as a result, you’ll still need to use your phone or video and photos.

What this leaves the $1500 smartwear with is basically two remaining features: companion applications and augmented reality. Companion applications for phone and messaging are certainly useful, but no different than what a $250 smartwatch can offer. Augmented reality is also interesting, but not useful in every scenario and also limited by Glass only having a single projector on the side of the display. To make matters worse, Glass depends more on voice commands than anything, which is still a completely awkward way to use a device in public. All in all, Glass is offering not much for its $1500 price tag beyond what a much cheaper smartwatch or other smart accessory can offer.

And yet, despite all these flaws, it’s this much-hyped style that has made Google Glass so appealing, not whether it is a viable smart accessory for average people. Google has done exactly what it wanted to do: make itself a household name in style, just like Apple is with the iPhone. I have to give credit where credit is due: even if nobody can really use Google Glass, everyone will still want it because of what Google has done to make Glass into a brand recognized by millions. It isn’t just about making a gadget, but making a very visible one.

For starters, most other journalists and folks in the Glass Explorers program absolutely love Google Glass. They love all the ways they’ve hacked or modified the smartwear for their own use, and basically shown how cool it is to use Glass, whether it be to make a new app, to give a first-person view of a skydive, or to broadcast a surgery to the world. Anyone who owns Glass becomes instantly cool, and Google has found a way to project that style and “coolness” just as Apple does when it promotes its products. Glass isn’t just a unique tech gadget anymore; it’s a fashion statement, it’s a brand, and it’s a lifestyle. The covers of many popular technology magazines only further prove this, showing stylish models and journalists with not glasses, but Glass on their faces.

Even the moments of friction Google has experienced while rolling out Glass have only helped the company show off its product and demonstrate the strength of the Glass brand, even in the face of some stiff criticism. For one, many eyebrows were raised when word got out that a pornographic film was made using Google Glass, and that an app called “Sex With Glass” was announced to allow partners with Glass to spice up their sex lives using their iconic smartwear.

There have been a number of other incidents involving people using Glass and the chaos that has then unfolded, such as a woman who was ticketed for wearing Glass while driving, only to have the case later dismissed, or when a man was detained by the Department of Homeland Security for wearing Glass while in an AMC movie theater (CNN, “Ticket for driving with Google Glass dismissed” 01.17.14).

There are also countless instances of bars, restaurants and even casinos banning Glass out of concern of its ability to record video. These are only a few of the many ways that Glass has polarized audiences, causing many to love it for its innovation and style, and many more to fear it for its introduction of technology in ways we’ve never before had to worry about before. However, whether it is for good or for bad, Google has loved every moment its Glass has garnered attention. Any news about Glass is, quite frankly, good news, and it only continues to build the hype as preparations are made for consumer availability this year.

I must admit though that I’ve never yet had the chance to use Glass, so maybe there’s a small chance I’m completely wrong. Maybe Glass really is all that it’s cracked up to be. There’s a small chance that if I ever try Glass, I may fall in love like many journalists have. Still, it’s important to look back and see where this iconic product has gone in just 11 months, and where it’s going in the next year.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Glass is going to be one of the most popular brands in Google’s arsenal, offering it the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of style and innovation much like Apple has been perceived for the last decade. Most of all though, I think it’s worth pointing out that whether you end up liking or hating Glass, Google has won out. I’m sure by the next I/O conference in May we’ll see what Google has to offer average people in the form of Glass, and I’m sure that everyone will want it just as there is a hype year after year for iPhones, iPads, and other iconic gadgets.


—Joshua Sherman ’16 is an English major.

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