What’s happening with the Apple Watch these days?

Not all that much, it turns out.

Apple Watch LineWhen is the last time you heard about a product introduction where initial sales were off by 90% barely three months after coming on the market?

If you’re thinking the Blackberry 10 … you’re wrong.

It’s the Apple Watch. Its introduction in April was made with a big amount of fanfare, promoted before and after the launch by PR, TV and online advertising, and even outdoor billboards.

But the hard truth is that aside from the tech community, few people are buying the Apple Watch.

According to Slide Intelligence, weekly Apple Watch sales have plummeted from around 200,000 per day at launch to fewer than 20,000 per day now. Moreover, most sales have been of the least expensive Sport model ($349).

Even worse, of those who have purchased an Apple Watch, fewer than four in ten would recommend the device to others.

You know there’s a problem when a new product engenders ridicule such as this brief, highly dismissive video review.

It may be too soon to write off the Apple Watch introduction as an abject failure. But I know one thing: The market’s (lack of) receptivity so far can’t be what Apple execs were hoping for.

It must be quite a comedown for a company that experienced the dizzying popularity of the iPod, iPhone and iPad right out of the box — and where those product sales continued to climb at an increasing rate for months or years after their debut.

google-glass-fashionSome people are comparing the Apple Watch introduction to what happened to Google Glass – likewise the victim of tepid sales to the point where Google quietly removed the product from the market after making a go of it for about two years.

Actually, I’m not quite sure the comparison is completely apt.

For starters, Google Glass didn’t come on the market backed by a ginormous PR and advertising campaign. In fact, it wasn’t really presented as a full-blown product – but more like a project with a beta test component.

Also, it was never made available in wide release; some people I know who wanted to “kick the tires” with Google Glass had difficulty finding out how they could do so.

But besides the very different rollout strategies, another factor might explain a more fundamental difference – and which has hugely negative potential impact on the Apple Watch.

Whereas Google Glass offered its wearers some truly new functionality, what does the Apple Watch deliver besides being merely a miniature version of an iPhone?

When something is less user-friendly (too miniature for many) … doesn’t offer any new functionality over alternative products … and is pretty expensive to boot, is it any wonder that the Apple Watch’s debut has had all the pizzazz of a cold mashed potato sandwich?

Speaking personally, I don’t consider a multipurpose device about an inch square in size as a “must-have” gadget, and I’m pretty sure others would agree with me.

Technology writer and CRM specialist Gene Marks cautions that the Apple Watch’s future isn’t likely to be much brighter than its less-than-impressive performance to date because of this fundamental liability: “The Apple Watch is not making people or companies quicker, better or wiser,” he contends.

In the world of technology and gadgets, that’s not recipe for success. Just ask Blackberry.

Now … let’s hear from Apple Watch users.  What’s your take?

Google Glass: Far-sighted … or fuzzy?

Google Glass fashionI’ve been blogging about Google Glass forever, it seems — or at least as far back as 2009 when the early conception of the product, then known as “Google Goggles,” was in its preliminary stage of development.

The Google Glass product was “soft-launched” in 2012, but it’s only become available to the broader consumer marketplace since the spring of this year — at about $1,500 a pair.

So … how has Google Glass done so far?

“Underwhelming” might be one way of putting it.

As it turns out, there are a number of key factors that are hindering consumer acceptance of this new piece of electronic gadgetry. Consider these points:

  • Substandard quality of images and video compared to a ~$200 smartphone:  oversaturated colors, lack of depth and dimension and all.
  • Battery life in normal use that is far less than promised: only about three hours instead of a full day.
  • Although somewhat streamlined compared to the beta versions of the product, it remains a somewhat “clunky” wearable device — or as Forbes magazine puts it, a “fashion failure.”
  • The general “creep-out factor” of constant surveillance remains a psychological barrier to many consumers.

Indeed, the jokes haven’t abated about the kind of people who make up the cadre of Google Glass “early adopters.”

“Glassholes” is one of the not-so-nice monikers they’re being called.

Going forward, Google Glass faces even more competition in the “wearables” category as computer power migrates into watches, jewelry and clothing in addition to eyeglasses. Even as these concepts become more mainstream, I suspect that Google Glass will continue to lag behind other products which seem to be harnessing the “high-tech-meets-high-fashion” concept more effectively.

We saw clear evidence of that this past week with the introduction of the Apple Watch.

Whereas Google has taken a “brute force” approach in the technological aspects of Google Glass (with design playing second fiddle), Apple has taken its technological innovation and packaged it in a way that resonates with the marketplace at a more visceral level.

If you glance quickly at someone wearing Apple’s watch, you’d be hard-pressed to think it’s anything much different from an analog version.  If Google hopes to have the same kind of success that Apple is poised to have, it needs to start thinking along those lines, too.

But one wonders if Google is “hard-wired” that way …

It had to happen: Google Glass begets facial recognition apps.

Google Glass wearerWell, that didn’t take long:  Now that Google Glass devices have started to be worn by more than just the first few early adopters, a new facial recognition app has promptly been developed.

It’s an app that enables users to snap a photo of someone, and then search the Internet for more information about the image – essentially, to identify the person by name.

Of course, Google has always maintained that such activities are an inappropriate use of Google Glass devices.  But that hasn’t stopped an outside app developer from doing just that.

The app is called NameTag, and it was introduced in late 2013 by a developer group known as FacialNetwork.  In December, the developer uploaded a video showing how NameTag works.  You can view it on YouTube here — and note that it’s quite controversial with more “dislikes” than “likes” from voters; how often does that happen?

Basically, the Google Glass wearer snaps a picture and the app runs the photo through a database containing ~2.5 million facial images.  If a match is found, it returns that finding along with the name and profile associated with the facial match (e.g., occupation, personal interests and relationship status).

According to the developers, NameTag can detect an image match even from behind obstructions like glasses and a hat.

What does FacialNetwork see as the benefit of its new NameTag app?  The developer touts the potential for dating and relationship-building.  On its website, the following scenario is presented:

“Jane has lots of different social media profiles and loves to meet new people.  By using NameTag, she can link all her social networks to her face and share her information, and meet new people in an instant.”

Personal privacy concernsRight. 

… And I’m sure “Jane” doesn’t worry one bit about the “creepiness” factor of someone learning her name and her personal information before she’s even aware of it …

As if pre-anticipating all of the hackles, NameTag quickly goes on to explain that people can choose whether to have their name and profile information displayed to others.

As entrepreneur and NameTag’s co-creator Kevin Tussy notes, “It’s not about invading anyone’s privacy; it’s about connecting people that [sic] want to be connected … We will even allow users to have one profile that is seen during business hours, and another that is only seen in social situations.”

If all of this sounds like it’ll be a tad more difficult to carry out in real life than it sounds like in theory – that you’re not fully comfortable “assuming” an app like this will actually offer the proper degree of safeguarding – I’m sure you’re not alone in your concerns.

In fact, some people aren’t waiting around to see what “might” happen, but are moving now to take preemptive action.  Certain congresspeople are in on the action.  And consumer advocacy group Public Citizen notes that Google Glass users in certain states could potentially face criminal prosecution in addition to civil penalties for recording people without their knowledge or consent.

Up to now, no one has faced such legal action – but that could be because the technology remains so new that few people are actually using Google Glass devices at this point.

The question is this:  Are people giving their “implicit consent” to be recorded just by talking with someone who’s wearing the device?  (The devices are fairly distinctive looking, after all.)

The answer may lie in whether the person even knows what Google Glass devices are.  One person speaking to another automatically means they know they’re being recorded seems to assume too much – at least at this relatively early stage in the product adoption cycle.

Things remain murky at this point because we’re still in an emerging phase in the application of the technology.  But one thing that seems clear is that we haven’t yet seen the beginning of what promises to be an airing of “dueling rights” in this area of the law.

For those who may already be using Google Glass (I’m not one, by the way), here’s your chance to share your perspectives with other readers here.

When Google Glass clashes with reality … watch out for shards.

Google Glass Groupies on the prowl.
Google Glass Groupies on the prowl.

Like self-driving cars, Google Glass devices – those intriguing contraptions that allow users to be “online connected” at all times – appear to be one of those innovations that spark a thousand “what if?” scenarios.

And it’s not at all clear what all the implications of Google Glass may be.  But we’re beginning to get some clues as to what’s in store for users.

For starters, Google Glass owners have been sternly warned against using them in locker rooms, movie theaters, casinos … and even restaurants.

And earlier this month, attorney Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, claimed that Google Glass wearers in some states could potentially face prosecution for recording people without their explicit consent.

Public Citizen logoIn a recent online column, Mr. Levy wrote:

“Many states require the consent of all parties in a conversation – at least, conversations not occurring in public situations – and provide both criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for participants.”

While such laws are on the books in just 12 states at the moment, collectively those jurisdictions represent more than a third of the American population (including the all-important states of California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois).

So far, there doesn’t appear to be any record of prosecutions pertaining to using a Google Glass device to record someone without his or her consent.  But since these devices are such a rarity yet, that seems hardly surprising.

Too, there’s the possibility that the courts will rule that people are giving the wearer of a Google Glass device implicit consent to record them.  However, there’s something to the notion that many people would be basically clueless about whether they’re being recorded because of their unfamiliarity with the device and the technology.

And as if that angle isn’t enough, now there’s a company (FacialNetwork) that has developed a real-time facial recognition app for Google Glass.   With this app, called NameTag, people can snap a photo and search for more information online about the image – all in one action.

With new technology like this, finding a mate (or just a good-time girl or guy) will never be the same again.

Nor will the inevitable charges of invasion of privacy or stalking that follow.

Of course, to hear how the folks at FacialNetwork characterize it, you’d never think there were any potential negative consequences.  Instead, it’s all sweetness and light.  As NameTag co-creator Kevin Tussy puts it:

“It’s not about invading anyone’s privacy; it’s about connecting people that want to be connected.  We will even allow users to have one profile that is seen during business hours, and another that is only seen in social situations.”


And now … let the legal wrangling begin.

Evil eye? Google’s vision for the future.

pay-per-gaze creepy disturbingTo understand where Google is heading next in the world of advertising, consider this:  The company has just been granted a patent on its “pay-per-gaze” eye-tracking system.

You might wonder what that might be.

Pay-per-gaze is an ad system that utilizes Google Glass for tracking the ads that consumers see online and elsewhere.  The gaze-tracking capability comes from another Google innovation:  a head-mounted tracking device that communicates with a server.

According to the patent documentation, the tracking devices includes eyeglasses with side-arms that engage the ears of the user … a nose bridge that engages the nose of the user … and lenses through which the user views the external scenes wherein the scene images are captured in real-time.

And it need not be limited to tracking online advertising, either; pay-per-gaze functionality could potentially extend to billboards, magazines, newspapers and other printed media, Google notes.

But the idea is even more revolutionary than that:  Not only does it aim to measure how long an individual looks at an ad, but also how “emotionally invested” the consumer is by virtue of measuring pupil dilation.

So the tracking system not only will show how long someone looks at an ad, but also will measure the emotional response.  The patent also covers a provision for “latent pre-searching” which would display search results over a user’s field of vision using Google Glass or another wearable computer.

If all of this seems like “Big Brotherism” at its worst … you may well be correct.  But Google is doing its best to downplay such sinister connotations.  It’s emphasizing that users can opt out of “pay-per-gaze” tracking, and that all data will be anonymized.

But let’s get this straight:  The world’s biggest search engine was just granted a patent for the most “sticky” form of advertising possible – ads that literally flash in front of someone’s eyes.

And when we add in aspects like measuring pupil dilation, it won’t be long before Google will be able to determine how good eats, or good looks, are affecting our emotional response.

One wonders how much farther we can go with measuring advertising engagement and buying intent. 

Then again, we already have an answer, of sorts.  As early as 2000, experiments with electromagnetic brainwaves have shown that people can literally “think” instructions and thereby cause an action.

Imagine combining Google’s pay-per-gaze and pay-per-emotion with electromagnetic brainwave tracking.  Add in a credit card number, and there’s no telling what could happen just with a fleeting thought or two!

If all of this sounds creepy and disturbing … get used to it.  With the likes of Google and the NSA at the helm, “creepy and disturbing” may well become the “new normal” for society.