Google Glass & The Future of Advertising

Blogs Damien McFerran 12:10, 7 Jun 2013

Krishna Subramanian and Andrew Levy on Google Glass, the type of apps we’ll see aboard it, and what it means for advertising in general

Google Glass is one of the most unique and potentially divisive products the company has ever made. It’s also one of its most ambitious undertakings since the launch of Android in 2008. The promise of wearable tech brings with it tantalizing potential: your glasses could guide you through an unfamiliar city, allow you to record a hike up a mountain or remind you to buy a pint of milk when you’re strolling past a supermarket. 

Of course, as is the case with so many pieces of mobile tech, it also brings with it risks. Concerns have already been raised regarding privacy, and we’ve given our own fictional vision of how nightmarish a Google Glass-powered future could be.

To get a better idea of what Google Glass has in store for us, we spoke to Andrew Levy, co-founder and CEO of Crittercism, and Krishna Subramanian of public mobile advertising firm Velti. Both are experts in the field of mobile advertising and marketing, and offer a unique vision on what Google’s latest venture has in store.

Google has made no secret of its desire to create an app store around Google Glass. What kind of applications could we potentially see for the device? 

Andrew Levy: With the real-time context and awareness features available in Google Glass, there will be a complete reimagining of apps developed across photography, shopping, gaming, social, content consumption and other widely used app categories. 

There’s also huge potential to create a completely new set of medical/health-based apps, from self-diagnosis to emergency room triage to information sharing between medical professionals. Additionally, Glass has the potential to take the quantified self-movement to new heights.

Navigation and local apps will make unfamiliar places as accessible as your hometown. The heads up display will be particularly helpful beneficial for automotive apps.

We’re also going to see new sets of enterprise apps used in the workplace. For example, with the image recognition technology, workers at distribution centers will no longer be required to manually enter information or scan barcodes, creating more efficient operations.

What unique challenges does Google Glass offer to app developers?

AL: Once Google opens up apps to be run natively on Google Glass, developers will need to cope with low resources (CPU, Battery, etc.), in an environment where photo/video/etc. can provide a rich experience. This is why they currently restrict apps to run in the cloud, which can make it challenging for developers to initially develop rich, interactive "augmented-reality" type applications.  Some of the first smartphones were also very low on resources, but just as the technology improved there I expect Glass to improve as well.

Developers will also need to find the right balance for how much information to build into their apps. They will have a smaller user interface, but with all of the contextual information that is available simultaneously, from audio to visual to geographical, etc., developers will be forced to make hard choices for what types of information they present to the user without completely overwhelming them.

Many critics have raised concerns about how Google Glass could potentially be an intrusive influence. What pitfalls will developers need to avoid when it comes to creating applications? 

AL: Mobile has created many great new opportunities, but having access to sensitive and personal information has always been a source of concern. Having a heads up, always on display will make users more acutely aware of technology’s access to their lives. Developers will need to take even greater steps to ensure their information is safeguarded and not being exploited.

Additionally, the access to ambient visual and audio information through Glass creates incredible opportunity. But with great power comes great responsibility and developers will need to be even more transparent about what information is collected, how it’s being used, what if anything is stored and where. 

Krishna, what are your thoughts on Google's advertising strategy for Glass?

Krishna Subramanian: Google’s taking a very cautious approach to advertising on Glass. It’s a brand new platform where user experience is absolutely paramount so it’s smart of them to experiment and build a great UX before allowing ads in.

There’s been talk that Google is alienating advertisers, but that’s a risk worth taking at the moment. In the interim advertisers planning for Glass are being forced to think differently - apps built onto Glass will be unlike ads on any other platform and bridge the gap for cross platform ad targeting. Google Glass will be the device that gathers data around location and context, which is the most valuable asset for cross platform targeting. 

How will Google Glass impact mobile advertising in the long run?

KS: Glass is valuable in the long run because it is the perfect way to tie real-world analytics into overall advertiser targeting. Unlike cross-platform targeting on smartphones, tablets, PCs and even TVs, Glass is complete with an ad targeting suite: search provides intent, display provides behavior, mobile provides location, and Glasses provide context.

Do you think that Google Glass will force advertisers to think differently in how they deploy their ads to mobile customers?

KS: With a more limited user interface and an always on display, Glass will force advertisers to find different ways to engage with consumers beyond traditional forms such as banner ads so as to not dilute the overall product experience for the user. 

For advertisers, the real opportunity can be found in tying together new data signals to identify the daily path they travel and the frequency in which they do it. Additionally, the data and functionality available in Glass will provide brands with the ability to create even more dynamic in-app experiences that lead to greater brand engagement.

Do you believe there's a long-term future for this kind of wearable tech, and if so, how will it shape the future of mobile advertising?

KS: Right now with connected devices becoming that much more important, advertisers don’t have to worry about the platform. There is huge value in providing insight into behaviors of the connected consumer, and wearable devices are one more piece that can provide data. 

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