The Four Glassmen of the App-ocalypse

Today we’re talking about the four most popular app ideas for Glass: Contextual Consumerism, Glass Docent, The Cloud Nurse, and Augmented-Reality Nametags. These are seriously popular ideas. If you asked a hundred people what they think Glass is for, I guarantee that 95 will name one or more of these. I call them the Four Glassmen of the App-ocalypse.

Mercenary developers? Consider these the most pitchable Glassware on the planet.
Insecure developers? Pick a different project, because these are not original ideas.

Contextual Consumerism: It’s fitting to start with Robert Scoble’s personal favorite concept – getting assistance parting with your money. “Looking at a product, comparing prices, and getting reviews” is the most common expression, but “being notified of nearby deals” and “being reminded if I need to buy something” are close seconds.

Of the four, Contextual Consumerism is the easiest to implement and has the highest immediate payoff. A UPC-to-product database is the only proprietary element, and even simple location awareness can be a passable substitute.

It’s difficult to design one of these apps without revealing an ulterior motive. Frankly, I’m not sure why people request this concept, since it allows the user to be manipulated by marketers.

Glass Docent: Simply a utility that allows you to look at a static piece and get a brief explaination, similar to a docent describing a piece in a gallery. Most people express this as “being able to look at a piece of art in a museum and get information on it”. You’ll hear variations like “looking at a movie poster and getting its trailer” but most expressions are literal.

The Glass Docent is difficult to do with finesse – not only are voice commands impolite in a gallery, but museums usually favor social groups who are just using the art as a pretense to meet up.

Expect to see the Glass Docent often – it’s so labor-intensive to assemble a database of pieces in an exhibit, each museum is likely to implement their own Glassware from scratch.

The Cloud Nurse: If you believe the majority of laypeople, the medical sector will be the first to get ‘disrupted’ by wearable. The idea is to feed patient information to a wearable, such as “patient charts when a nurse walks into a hospital room,” “vitals when the doctor leaves,” and “real-time information during surgery.” Presumably, this will reduce mistakes and oversights.

This is a serious challenge to build and sell. Doctors and surgeons log tens of thousands of hours of practice with their tools, and hospital systems have far more hours of field testing. On top of this, hospitals have long-running contracts, and caregivers are scared of liability. The switching costs are astronomical for large and small practices alike.

The Cloud Nurse is an incremental improvement, not a hole-filler, and risk-averse organizations don’t like gambling on mere process improvements. That said, surgeons have a hard time using computers in the OR without having to scrub and glove again. The ability to have a remote operator run tests and searches, then mirror it back to the surgeon’s wearable, could be a hole in the armor.

The Augmented Reality Nametag: I’ve saved the biggest and most popular for last. The ability to look at a person’s face, and have their name, social-media activity, Klout, bio, etc float nearby, is by far the most often-requested Glassware. Some expressions are innocuous – “I’m bad with names and I want to know if I’ve already met this person.” Some are unnerving – “I want to know if this person is popular (or single) enough to be worth talking to.”

Universal facial recognition is insanely hard. Culling and formatting the dossier in real time is insanely hard. Registering the augmented-reality content is insanely hard. On top of this, you have an etiquette issue of looking at Glass during a conversation, a disturbing information imbalance, a perceived privacy invasion, and the challenge of silently launching the Glassware in the first place.

There are a lot of people working on the AR Nametag. I can name three startups and many open-source projects. All I can say is that TED attendees have a special name for people who cruise the crowds with their heads down, reading badges before they decide who’s worth talking to – badge scanners. They get avoided.

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