Looking into the Future of Search with Google Glass

Google Glass was introduced two years ago as nothing more than an experimental Google Glassproject from the ubiquitous search giant.  They seem to relish in creating these new ‘space-age’ type gadgets and projects that defy reality as was apparent with their earlier experimentations with the self-driving car. Google Glass was no exception with its promise of utilising a tiny screen embedded into a pair of ‘high-tech’ looking glasses that would enable one to keep up to date with notifications, news, and messages as well as allowing the user access to search the web, send email and record videos.  Initially there was much scepticism but shoot forward a few years and Google now have an actual product.  This began shipping to early adopters and developers who’d agreed to pay the hefty price tag in order to be the first to try the product, and thus we can finally see what the device has to offer.

Google Glass is a truly revolutionary product in the sense that it is giving a first-hand glimpse into the future of search. With a simple interface that is shown to the user via the tiny screen just in front of the eye, one can control Glass having it take photos, film a video, and share them with friends, and much more. Of course, the introduction of such an easy to use and permanently switched on device also brings with it some concerns. Here we take a look at the list of features that Google has introduced with Glass, what it means for the future of search, and finally some potential pitfalls that Glass may encounter as the product attempts to enter the mainstream.

Google Glass feature list

  • One of the most noticeable aspects of Glass is the simplicity of the device. Smartphones and tablets have become easier to use in past years but Glass manages to up the ante. The device is a small metallic attachment that clips on to the specially designed glasses with a thin cable that runs from the right ear to the right eye. There’s a small translucent screen with just one button on the side. To wake Glass up just press the button or say the magic phrase, “OK Glass”. Once awake everything else on the device is done either via the side button or by voice command.
  • The interface itself is just as simple though with the screen being so small one is able to view only a limited amount of information at one time – just a few words in fact as the interface is actually a series of cards which one scrolls through utilising the previously mentioned side button.  For example, let’s say you just took a photo and want to share it, just say “share”, and then scroll through your list of friends by using the button.
  • Obviously Glass is equipped with a camera which takes both photos and records videos, again operated simply by speaking the appropriate command. Once created the photos can automatically be uploaded and shared with Google. The fact that all of this is done hands-free with a single voice command, and via an interface that is already ‘on your face’, makes it the fastest camera out there.
  • Messaging is also fully integrated: One is able to receive notifications of messages and can send either an SMS or Google Plus message using just a voice command. Speak the message and Glass sends it off to the relevant recipient.
  • There’s also the ‘MyGlass’ app that assists in configuring and managing your new Glass, as well as a New York Times app that displays headlines every hour.
  • Finally, navigation is another integral part of Google Glass. Your path is displayed directly in front of you, showing walking or driving directions in real time as you move forward, thereby making Glass even more intuitive than a GPS unit.


Implications for search

If Google Glass does catch on and become widespread this will obviously have a big impact on the search industry. There are several factors where this is apparent, namely:

  • The space limitations for displaying search results: as the device is only able to list one line of text at a time the device will therefore deliver only one search result at a time rather than a page of results. This clearly provides an added incentive for search engine marketers to achieve the top spot in search engine results rather than just the first page.
  • Voice driven search: We can expect to see more demand for long tail queries as users will find it easier to speak the long phrase rather than type it! Google will be looking at other ways to ensure that the results are optimised more towards spoken queries.
  • New forms of advertising: Although advertising is currently forbidden on Google Glass we can be sure to see some sort of advertising in the future – and in order to enhance the user experience these will need to be both visually pleasing and highly targeted, i.e. recommendations for a restaurant, or perhaps a shopping guide of nearby locations. For this, businesses will want to ensure that they have included geotagging in their listings.

Pitfalls of Google Glass

Google Glass seems like a wonderful product, at least initially. It provides instant access to communication, messaging, and the web, and gives you the ability to record life as it happens. However, there are quite a few issues to consider for the potential buyer, mainly due to the fact that this is a first generation product.

In our opinion the current text limitation on the screen is a major problem. Consider the New York Times app for example, it’s restricted to show only part of a news headlines.  There is no way to pull up the entire article and thus this also presents a problem for web searching. If a user is looking for anything other than information that Glass already has a built-in function for such as directions or weather, then they will be frustrated since web pages cannot be displayed on Glass.

Glass also has poor battery life. Currently one can use the device for around three hours before it starts to fade and run out of juice.  Another negative is that Glass also relies on your mobile device which means you’re required to always have your Android phone with you and running the companion app, this of course drains your phone battery too.

To communicate – sending messages or uploading videos – Glass uses Bluetooth. This is considered a tethering function so if your mobile phone contract does not allow tethering, or charges you extra, then you may think twice about investing in Glass. It also doesn’t work with anything other than an Android smartphone and a Google Plus account, at least for now.

The device pitfalls are not the only things to consider. In many ways society may not ready for Google Glass.  Currently (most of the time) when you snap a photo with your mobile phone camera others are aware of it.  However, with Glass the device is pointing in front of you and not visible to others so there’s no way for them to know if you are recording or taking a photo. There are hints that the next version will include a clear indicator in front of the product to show this, as already many businesses and locations have started to ban Glass simply due to the privacy factor – not everyone wants to be photographed without their knowledge!

There’s no argument that Google have come up with a truly state-of-the-art gadget in Google Glass, and it’s sure to be a lot of fun to use.  It certainly represents the future in some way but it could take several iterations before it becomes the polished article and widely accepted in our society in general terms – though we once said this about the clunky mobile phone many moons ago!