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Will the wearable technology market be affected by Google Glass?

By CJ Castillo / July 5, 2013

There are a couple things that may keep Glass from catching on like smartphones and tablets. First, there’s the issue of price. The initial release, made available to developers and tech insiders, was $1500 — too expensive to appeal to casual users. In an online survey, almost half of users said they would pay between $200 and $300 for Google Glass.

Second, the hardware lacks a certain cool factor. People on the web are already having laughs at Glass’ expense and that’s sure to continue. If Glass is going to lead the wearable technology market, it may depend on its user base getting over the funny looks and second glances.

But as the tech industry has proven before, you shouldn’t always judge a device by the appearance of its prototype. Sure, Glass may currently look a little strange, but with enough time and redesigns, Glass could easily overcome the aesthetical hurdle. What’s most important is its ability to change our day-to-day lives, and that’s one area where Glass separates itself from most wearables.

Who will wear wearables?

At the D11 conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook subtly endorsed wearable technology by suggesting it was an area “ripe for exploration” and that many companies would “play in this space.” In discussing Google Glass, Cook said the eyewear would probably not appeal to a mass market, but more likely to smaller, niche markets. “In terms of glasses, I wear glasses because I have to. I don’t know a lot of people that wear them that don’t have to,” he explained.

Cook seemed more optimistic about the future of wrist wearables. He brushed off the declining popularity of watches by suggesting, “You first have to convince people it’s so incredible that they want to wear it.” If the iWatch rumors are true, Cook has some convincing to do, but judging by the popularity of fitness tracking bracelets like the Jawbone Up, FitBit Flex and Nike+ FuelBand, he may not have to try very hard.

Indeed, a report from the research firm ON World predicted that 515 million fitness sensors, like the ones used in the Nike+ FuelBand, will be shipped globally by 2017. That’s quite a jump from the already respectable 107 million units that shipped in 2012.

How will consumers respond?

Rackspace, a cloud computing company, recently surveyed 2,000 wearable users and found that 82% of participants believed their device makes life better and over half of these owners claim they’re now more creative, efficient and connected with friends and family.

The Rackspace study also showed that two-thirds of the respondents felt wearables with recording capabilities, such as Google Glass, should be regulated. Like all first-to-market innovations, Glass will have to cut through all sorts of legal scrutiny before making its way to the market. Although this will be a big pain for Google, it’ll create a smooth pathway for future Glass competitors.

Google Glass is still in the early stages of acceptance, even among early adopters, so it remains to be seen how it’ll affect the wearable technology market. Perhaps things will become clearer once Google releases the Glass SDK, allowing developers to create a wider range of apps for a variety of markets. It’ll also be interesting to see what Google and popular eyewear designer, Warby Parker, come up with for the general market.

But Google’s not the only one reaching out to the fashion sector for assistance. Apple recently followed suit by hiring Yves St Laurent CEO, Paul Deneve, to head their special projects division. Although this “special project” remains shrouded in speculation, there’s a good chance you’ll be able wear the final product.

Google Glass may not be able to take total credit for adding “wearables” to our lexicon, but it certainly helped gain the interest of the public, news outlets and the stock market.