The world has never been so fascinated with a product that's been stuck in public beta for well over a year.
Yet amid the incessant daily churn of titillating Google Glass news stories — it's been banned from movie theaters; it's getting a design makeover from Diane Von Furstenberg; it's been mercilessly savaged by The Daily Show — we woke up Monday morning to a Glass story that concerns the trajectory of Glass as a successful product effort: Google has announced five certified partners that will explore how the increasingly infamous wearable can improve productivity in the workplace.
This is an important step for Google, because if Glass ever actually ships, it will find its most receptive audience in the enterprise space.
Look at everything Glass has stacked against it as a mainstream, consumer-focused product: Its face-mounted camera provokes both privacy and piracy concerns. It makes you look like a tech-dweeby dork. It costs $1,500 (albeit in beta, limited-release trim).
But worst of all, it's become a public laughingstock. When Jason Jones eviscerated Glass Explorers on The Daily Show last week, he all but killed any chance that Glass will ever be taken seriously by normal-folk consumers. It was a body blow to Google's mainstream Glass aspirations. But none of that matters to people who might use Glass to, well, "get things done."
Google first announced its "Glass at Work" program in early April, and now the company has released the names of five certified partners.
At the top of the list is APX Labs, which makes Skylight, a back-end cloud platform for managing smartglasses in the enterprise space. Among other nifty tricks, Skylight would use Glass for task management, user authentication and telepresence scenarios allowing managers to see remote locations from a worker's point-of-view.
Augmedix is building a Glass workflow for managing electronic health records, allowing doctors to push patient information to a database, and query that database directly through the wearable. CrowdOptic is working on a Glass initiative to push video from the playing fields of sporting events to stadium jumbotrons, while Guidigo taps into Glass for enhanced tours of museums and outdoor landmarks. Finally, Wearable Intelligence is making Glassware that manages workflow and communications in the energy, manufacturing and healthcare sectors.
The common thread shared by all these companies? They're tapping into Glass for very specific purposes that somehow improve either employee productivity or a suite of public-facing services. And each activity they're working on somehow relieves the user of Glass' innate cringe-factor.
After all, when you're nurse doing a blood pressure test, you don't care about how you look. And when you're one of 50 different museum visitors wearing dorky smartglasses on your face, you feel safety in numbers.
Keep your eyes trained on Glass at Work and other products, services and initiatives that integrate smartglasses in the work place. This is where the Glass conversation should really be focused.
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