Google Glass Finds Its True Calling as an Industrial Tool
Do you miss seeing people walking around wearing Google Glass headwear? You remember, those spectacles with the heads-up display, where you were never really sure if the wearer was paying attention to the conversation… or reading their messages and recording you for later? Well, get ready to hear “OK Glass” again — as its makers target the enterprise market.
Google parent Alphabet moved the Glass Enterprise Edition to its “X” project stable, and now it’s a company in its own right. After a two-year limited testing in over 50 industrial settings, the team says Glass is ready for the wider working world.
Glass Lets Workers Keep Hands and Eyes on the Job
In a blog post today, Glass project lead Jay Kothari described observing airplane maintenance staff at GE Aviation. The workers, he said, continually needed to stop working and climb down ladders to check paper instruction manuals.
Running new software from Upskill, Glass can display all that information right in front of the wearer’s eyes — complete with videos and animations. Kothari wrote that GE reported an 8-12 percent efficiency gain and a drop in errors.
For the past two years, companies including DHL, Boeing, Volkswagen and Sutter Health have tested Glass with similar or better results. It’s most useful, they say, for workers who need to focus and keep their hands literally on the job.
Peggy Gulick, Glass’ director of business process improvement, said “Employees are now working smarter, faster and safer because they have the information they need right in their line of sight”.
Through its partner network, Glass tailors applications to each business’ need. It has also improved the hardware since 2015 to make it lighter and longer-lasting, and more compatible with existing industrial eye protection.
DHL used software by wearable technology firm Ubimax to give workers live instructions on where to place items, with visual aids. The company claimed a 15 percent efficiency benefit.
Doctors at healthcare companies Sutter Health and Dignity Health also tested Glass, saying it enabled them to look patients in the eye and listen, as Glass recorded the conversation and transcribed into notes. This also led to a dramatic reduction in administrative work.
Glass a Bad Fashion Accessory, but a Great Industrial One
Google shut down the consumer side of its Glass project in 2015. Since then, it has pivoted to explore the technology’s usefulness as an industrial tool.
While popular with its test-users from 2013 to 2015, the original Google Glass failed to resonate with the wider public. Wearers were ridiculed and even assaulted. Things came to a head when tech reporter Robert Scoble posted a selfie of himself wearing Glass in the shower — a stunt that reportedly didn’t amuse Google CEO Larry Page.
On top of the privacy concerns, people just weren’t ready for such a mainstream display of human-machine symbiosis. They also looked more like a piece of medical equipment than cyberpunk fashion accessory.
None of these are concerns in an enterprise setting, where practicality and efficiency are the only thing that matters. Looking like a piece of medical equipment turned out to be a feature, not a bug.
Would Glass help you do your job? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Glass, Robert Scoble