“Just Google it” is a phrase which can be heard on college campuses daily. Google’s dominance of the online search industry is evident in this expression, demonstrating not only how the terms “Google” and “search” have become interchangeable, but also the centrality of Internet technology in everyday life.
Google’s ascent to the top of the technology market underscores how the company understands the importance of creating the next big thing. It has not only watched industry giants fall to their knees, but has also been an active participant in the process.
At the end of 2007, Symbian held an overwhelming 68% of the market for smartphone operating systems, powering devices produced by Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Motorola. Now, Symbian no longer exists and Google’s Android mobile operating system has taken its place as the number one operating system in the world. In March 2012, it was announced that Android’s worldwide smartphone market share was a mind blowing 75%.
Now that Google is the top dog with a target on its back, it has invested billions of dollars into a secret lab facility called “Google[x].” The mission of this lab is to develop a large variety of “future technologies” and keep its competitors at bay. Such projects have included a self-driving car, Internet service via balloons in the stratosphere, an artificial neural network and integration of the Internet into everyday items.
On April 4, 2012, Google announced that one of the Google[x] projects would be developed and released for commercial use: Google Glass. A pair of augmented reality glasses, Google Glass aims to take the functionality of smartphones such as reminders, writing and sending messages via Siri-like voice control, maps and directions, photo-taking and other types of features and have it appear in the lenses of the glasses, thus leading to an uninterrupted user experience.
Although Glass has not been released to the public yet, many technology aficionados have been given trial runs and speculations about the application of the technology appear endless.
DL Byron, a cycling enthusiast that runs the blog Bike Hugger, has said that he envisions Google Glass being a huge hit amongst bike enthusiasts. While modifying his own bicycle, Byron noted the ease with which he was able to bring up instructional videos and follow along when he got stuck.
“I didn’t have to worry about fouling a touch-screen with my bike-grease-stained fingers, and I didn’t have to stop and put everything down to go search on a laptop or flip through a manual,” he wrote.
It only takes a bit of imagination to see how this experience could be replicated for tasks such as fixing household appliances, replacing a flat tire on a car and modifying parts in a computer. Yet, the application of Google Glass may be felt most deeply in the variety of industries it could revolutionize.
The healthcare industry has been particularly vocal in discussing the utility. John Halamka, chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, has called Google Glass “an engineering masterpiece” and praised its ability to “be used in a variety of medical contexts, but especially by those who have to keep their hands sterile, or busy.”
Many in the healthcare industry see the invention as a preeminent step towards telemedicine, where practitioners can deliver healthcare information and even treatment methods to and from remote locations via technology.
For general physicians, the technology could also be used to pull up client medical records more quickly via facial recognition, all without having to look away from the patient.
Gerald Kane, a professor of information systems at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, noted that this same recognition technology could be used by businessmen, professors and even clergymen. He envisions a world where Glass could help these professionals see “who people are, how you know them, how they fit into your community or clientele and most importantly, how they are related to other people.”
“It’s always about a trade-off,” Kane said while discussing the privacy concerns many share about the project. He compared current concerns about Google Glass to concerns about Internet cookies in the 90s.
Users griped about Internet cookies “until they realized Amazon could give them a much better user experience by putting a cookie on their computer,” he said.
“It’s not really that I’m trading civil liberties. It’s that I recognize that there’s a balance and I realize you can give me a more valuable service if I give you this information.“
If consumers are willing to make this trade-off, Google Glass may just be the next big thing Google, its shareholders and its international consumers are looking for.Featured image via giuseppe.costantino/Flickr.