Co.Design

What Google's Glasses Need To Succeed: Prada And Gucci

Android is sloppy because Google licenses the software for anyone to use. But opening Project Glass’s hardware to every fashion designer in the world could have a very different result.

When you buy an Android phone, it means very little. The phone could be made by anyone. The case could be bulky, thin, sturdy, or clunky. The screen could be one of the sharpest or blurriest on the market. And worse still, the software itself could be skinned to something unintelligible. Android is a fragmented mess.

Google has handed over the keys to their flagship mobile product to a bunch of companies who are often brilliant at engineering but rarely all that tasteful when it comes to design. So despite having every company but Apple making Google phones, Apple is still, somehow, making the most beautiful hardware. An iPhone might not have 4G like some Android phones on the market, but Apple has style and that counts for a lot.

While Apple’s closed system offers covetable design, Google’s open line of phones only gets larger and more confusing. Google is ostensibly selling every phone in the world but the best one. But Project Glass could be very different. It could be the time where, like the early days of Windows PCs, open hardware again becomes a huge advantage. Why? Because Project Glass isn’t a gadget that’s tucked away in your pocket. It’s a fashion accessory that sits on your face. Fashion has its trends, sure, but ultimately, fashion is an expression of individual taste that’s fueled by an uncountable amount of options.

Right now, most of us are cringing at Google’s proposed Geordi-friendly geekwear. But imagine a scenario where Google offered Project Glass as a small hardware kit that any company in the world could use to make Google Glasses. (Somewhat like Microsoft, Google could close the software and open the hardware--or at least parts of the hardware.)

While the typical electronics manufacturers would still produce Google Glasses, it could bring in a new wave of designer manufacturers, too. Instead of HTC, Motorola, and Samsung, we could buy Google products designed by Ray-Ban, Fendi, and Gucci. Then, even retail stores like Target, who spend big bucks to subsidize designer labels for the masses, could get behind the technological platform to create whole new lines of the product. Every corner of the market is covered--from the techies to the moms to those who can actually afford high fashion.

Tom Ford’s Spring 2012 Campaign. Imagine the possibilities!
Prada’s Spring 2012 Campaign

The result could be a refreshed paradigm for gadgets. A world once dominated by engineering decisions could be dictated by artistic tastes. Construction wouldn’t just be through milled aluminum or new composite plastics, but wood, textile, fur--any whim of the fashion industry.

And a company like Apple, who could conceivably release a competing product, would be in a much different position. Right now, Apple is the electronics design equivalent to Michael Phelps racing a bunch of children around the kiddie pool. But with every desirable fashion brand in the world behind Project Glass, Apple wouldn’t have nearly this margin on style. They’d finally have some decent competition, all arising from the smallest boutiques to the largest retail stores.

With Apple’s closed approach, their products would resemble a uniform at worst and a single label at best. And Google? They’d run the entire fashion industry.

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12 Comments

  • Forrest O.

    I don't see how people that already wear glasses will wear the current design. Wouldn't that be the most obvious first market: people that already wear something on their face all of the time?

  • pecus

    * What then is all the hype around Apple's Siri speech to task
    assistant? Sounds like the natural evolution of what's already going on
    with droves of iAddicts to me...

    It's hype Ben, just like you say (to be fair, Siri is a piece of tech that works: it really understands spoken language and derives sense, not just keywords for built-in actions; the feedback is also surprisingly natural: tone and choice of words and expressions). I/we just don't see "droves of iAddicts" speaking to Siri out in public that much, or do you? The only case I believe Siri (or any other similar technology) is useful is while driving/commuting (even better if integrated with the car sensors and logic, but I digress).

    Glasses on the contrary are "perpetual" objects, in that people do wear them morning to night (even if they didn't need to, like in this case: it is much more usable to keep them always on than wear them at will). Therefore if interaction is speech based, people will be talking nonsense most of the time.

  • McLeod

    Less is more. Looks like another "design by committee" product. Appears that the technology is driving the design and the process just ran out of creative steam.

  • pecus

    The form of the glasses might have an impact on their success (and fashion brands can indeed help), but this case is very similar to Oakley's MP3 glasses: the product, not its form or design were the cause of its failure.

    I object to the feasibility of many of the use-cases depicted in the video, and the user interaction is close to inexistent in the video. Granted, this is merely a vision (I doubt Sergey's glasses are very much functional), but the more we can imagine a fashion-setting man or woman wearing these glasses, the less I can picture them speaking commands to their glasses.

    And if it'll happen, we'll be a bunch of fashion morons or hip-autistics.

  • Ben

    "the less I can picture them speaking commands to their glasses."

    What then is all the hype around Apple's Siri speech to task assistant? Sounds like the natural evolution of what's already going on with droves of iAddicts to me...

  • joe larson

    This is an interesting angle but still too focussed on the consumer opportunities for Project Glass.  I still have a hunch AR glasses are going to start out being something companies purchase -- warehouse, industrial, entertainment uses.  It will depend on the pricepoint of course.  

  • Ben

    Agreed. Now adapt this hardware idea as a simple add-on for the masses that daily wear normal eyewear for sight and sun and you've surpassed the style dependency altogether.

  • Railingk

    You might be right, Joe. Glass could be the second coming of Segway -- supposed to change the world, but ends up being used by security guards and warehouse guys. Partially because it's far too dorky for normal folks to wear in public.