Smart Glasses Will Reenvision Travel as We Know It
A couple runs through an airport, anxiously looking at real-time flight updates via a head-mounted display. A man asks his smart glasses how to say “delicious” in Thai while using both hands to eat. Another man sees factoids about various landmarks appear in front of him while touring California’s wine country with friends.
The future? Not at all: These are all things Google Glass can do right now, aptly demonstrated (in ideal fashion) in Google videos. These particular vignettes all highlight the potential for connected headgear — a.k.a. smart glasses — to augment how we travel.
Devices like Google Glass have the potential to create a brand-new industry of devices generically referred to as “wearables.” At the same time, they could up-end other industries, travel probably being one of the most disruptable. Travel, by its nature, requires very specific information tied to locations — something web services have gotten very good at surfacing. Throw in the convenience of a wearable device, and it feels like a surefire winner.
The questions of consumer acceptance and usability are still there, though, and the answers will ultimately decide whether smart glasses go mainstream. But even if they don’t, the category could carve out a niche for “power” travelers.
The Freedom of ‘Hands-Free’
The marketing firm MMGY Global saw the potential of smart glasses in travel immediately and launched an entire campaign around it. The company recently sent five “Glass Explorers” (what Google calls the 8,000 or people it’s seeded with Glass before its commercial release in 2014) to Fort Myers & Sanibel Island to document their travel experience through Glass.
“There is so much possibility with wearables that it’s really exciting for the travel industry,” says Robert Patterson, vice president of social media and influencer marketing at MMGY Global. “It’s not really a platform, it’s a lifestyle.”
Connected headsets — and Google Glass in particular — are good at delivering specific information to the user without needing to however a smartphone. Maps, photos and local facts are of particular use to travelers. But it’s clear from the above video that the No. 1 thing travelers want to do with smart glasses is capture and share photos and videos.
“The main thing that smart glasses do is let the user stay in the moment,” says Chris Grayson, a spokesman for Telepathy, which plans to release a smart glasses product by the end of the year. “One does not have to reach into their pocket and get sucked into the world of their device.”
The fact that users of smart glasses gravitate toward sharing photos and videos of their vacations — during their vacations is an outgrowth of how social media itself has changed over the past few years, Patterson says.
“We’re finding more and more people are not disconnecting during their vacations, and they actually enjoy being connected as being part of their vacation experience,” says Patterson. “They’re sharing those moments with other people.”
Although we’ve had continuous access to social networks via smartphone for years, smart glasses take it to the next level by making the experience hands-free. The convenience extends to maps and alerts — using them becomes easier if there’s no smartphone to hold and look down at. When traveling, where such services are almost required, smart glasses are an attractive option.
Wearing Your Destination
Google clearly sees this and re-engineered the FieldTrip app specifically for Glass. When activated, the app sends the wearer alerts tied to the immediate location, ensuring landmarks — and even unmissable restaurant dishes — aren’t overlooked.
“Being hands-free and having the technology be intuitive — to the point that it’s there when you need it and gone when you don’t — is really essential,” says Patterson. “A lot people focus onthe photo/video aspect, which is really fun. But the local discovery, having all those things tied together, makes it a complete package.”
While there’s a lot of excitement around wearables and smart glasses in particular, they bring with them concerns, chiefly about privacy. Although facial recognition is explicitly barred from Glass (for now), other manufacturers have no such policy. Add to that differing cultures and their attitudes on tech throughout the world, and international travelers should be doubly careful about wearing smart glasses when exploring.
“The whole area of hands-free image capture has both advantages and restrictions as to when it will be appropriate,” says Paul Travers, CEO of Vuzix, which has been manufacturing connected headgear for years. “This is most likely something that will be dealt with through common sense, peer pressure and etiquette as was the case with cellular phones, but in some cases restrictions will — and should — be put into place.”
As smart glasses gain greater acceptance, they could be equally disruptive for the hospitality side of travel as the consumer side. One day, it could be the norm that hoteliers and flight attendants wear a connected headset, ready to dispense personalized information to serve customers better.
“A flight attendant [wearing smart glasses] might know there are people with special needs on the flight,” suggests Patterson. “You could have the flight roster always present. How could that let them better customize their service?”
Would you wear smart glasses while traveling? For what sort of activities? Let us know in the comments.
Article courtesy of Mashable