2013.07 | Wearable Technology

488057_10151438249817871_1163881505_nGoogle Glass – As the masses become increasingly addicted to our mobile devices, it comes as no surprise that the wearable side of technology would be the next prime target for technology companies everywhere.

Google released a new video today highlighting all of the things you can do with Google Glass.  They’ve including taking photos, tweeting, recording videos, video chatting, searching for images, getting weather reports, getting turn by turn directions (on streets and more),  pulling flight information and details, language translation, wikipedia searches and texting.

Apparently there is a contest kicking off to see which laymen get the first sets of Google Glass based on a 50 word application of what you would do with them (18+, US only, and…. you still have to pay the $1,500 and show up to get them in a few select cities.)

The interface looks really great and using them looks simple. It’s anyone’s guess whether this thing takes off.  I think they look a little crazy, and I’m not keen to hear “OK, glass” (the beginning command to activate the device) everywhere I go.  If you think people talking on mobiles or everyone looking at mobiles is aggravating, hearing “OK, glass” again and again is going to top everything.

That said, I didn’t think I’d get an iPad, but here we are all with tablets.  Crazier things have caught on.

Update: Check out this real life review of Google Glass.

8757681_origCynaps – If you’re looking to top off your geek ensemble, you may also want to pick up your Cynaps – the world’s first bone conduction bluetooth headset built into a baseball cap.   This device connects to any bluetooth mobile device so you can listen to music and answer calls without actually wearing any headphones in your ears.  The sound is passed to your inner ear via vibration pads that are flush to the wearer’s head.   The control panel for power and volume is in the bill of the hat.   They sell two models of the cap as well as a DIY version that you can mount into whatever headwear suits your fancy.

If this becomes common, we will no longer be able to tell if people are listening to music or talking on their mobile by looking at their ears.   Quite a change in social norms, and probably another interesting challenge for cashiers at a traditional point of service, who now can’t even tell if someone is being rude or not.

w680Smart Watches – With the success of the Kickstarter darling Pebble, there is lots of talk around the potential that Apple may jump in with a watch device as their next big deal.  While I’ve seen lots of articles on this subject, this article by Tom Chatfield at the BBC provides the best arguments for why it might happen, and provides some interesting perspective on how the solution could be useful.

What do all of these wearable devices mean for retail?  Like mobile, it’s a split scenario.    Consider how it impacts the customers, and consider how it could be used by retailer associates.

Wearable devices like these worn by customers could be used much like mobile is today but much less obtrusively.   It’s another channel, another benefit and another environmental factor for consideration.

Google Glass could be used for:

  • Showrooming – With the right SDK, apps like Amazon, or RedLaser can enable wearers to scan items by pulling them off the shelf and looking them.  The camera can recognize the barcodes (just like redeeming an iTunes giftcard with your facetime camera – try it – it’s very quick and satisfying) and return search details on comparable prices elsewhere.
  • Mobile Self Scanning – Google Glass could be used to port to a mobile app for users to scan their groceries as they go through the store, and then they could checkout with Paypal or some other mobile payment solution.
  • Price Lookup and Product Information – Store staff could use Google Glass to look at an item and get instant heads up on whether a product is in stock – if not, where else can they get it?
  • Loyalty – Based on the client information, information can be shown only to the eyes of the store staff in order to best serve the client without the client seeing the information.
  • Mobile Payment – For mobile payment, Google Glass represents an opportunity for multiple screens that could be beneficial in the case of whether a payment was accepted.  Instead of it showing on the mobile device, it would flash on the glasses where only the wearer could see the information.  Personal information could also be verified with clients without anyone nearby seeing or hearing it.

Cynapse  could be used for:

  • In Store Communication – Worn by store staff these devices could make it possible to have better communication among store staff across a large retail location without hampering their ability to hear customers with their ears being covered or filled with headphones.

Smart Watches could be used for:

  • Mobile Payment – Users could scan their watch instead of a mobile device – simplify the process and avoid mobile devices being dropped.
  • In Store Communication – Store staff could use them as price checkers (camera required) or for a simple paging system.
  • Apps – An iOS or Android watch would presumably either have access to apps on the mobile phone to which they are paired or may have their own apps that could be built by retailers or by third parties to be used by consumers.

As always, retailers need to be aware of these changes, think about how they threaten their business, and how they can be leveraged for gain.   If systems are able to talk to all of these devices, and there is a match between a retailers target market and those that use these devices, there is a real chance to take on the channels as true differentiators.  New twists on technologies like these can also be the tools that drive  retailers into the future by enabling their staff access to more and better information.

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