Google Glass: Reconciling Fashion and Function

Google Glass—stylish enough for mainstream consumption?

There’s a hard line to toe between fashion and function. Google knows all about it.

The company released Google Glass—essentially, computerized eyewear— in February of this year. Ultimately, Google’s goal is to create a ubiquitous computer available for mass production and consumption. Instead of lenses, the Glass uses a head-up display, which is a transparent display that allows users to see the presented data without looking away from their viewpoints.

Currently, the miniature computer can perform smartphone-like functions such as recording videos and navigating directions, all controlled by voice recognition, facial gestures, and a control pad on the side frame.

It’s smart. It’s savvy. The novelty concept practically screams out at viewers in promotion videos for the product. The problem? It’s not aesthetically pleasing. It is, as a recent Knowledge@Wharton article put it, “fashion for the socially inept.”

It’s a classic example of a company’s conundrum when it comes to exploring emerging markets and technologies–one of the Mack Institute’s key research priorities. Innovation is all well and good, but how do you transform a cutting-edge development into something that consumers would feel comfortable using?

Technology is not traditionally considered a fashion-forward industry. The notable exception seems to be Apple, with its minimalistic design and clean surfaces. In an effort to reach out to broader audiences, Google is reportedly in talks to negotiate with geek-chic eyeglass company Warby Parker to help design more fashionable frames.

The interesting part will be watching the development unfurl. It’s a project in process for Google. For now, the product has far too much of a niche market for mainstream success. The price ($1500) is also a deterrent for curious techies, never mind the fashion factor (or lack thereof).

While Google Glass is definitely fascinating—and I’m sure tech junkies out there will snap it up—give me my smartphone any day. I can store it out of sight in my pocket even if the design is a little too clunky, and I can get similar functionality for a fraction of the price.

Would you swap your smartphone for Google Glass? Sound off below!