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Why Brands Are Already Looking at Google Glass, and Why Apple Should Be Worried

Experts say product could kill smartphones, alter marketing landscape for years to come

Will Google Glass kill the smartphone? Reinvent gaming? Steal the second screen from tablets? Alter the marketing and shopping landscape entirely? Probably not completely, and not all at once (since the device won't be commercially available until next year). But experts predict that the new product could be a game-changer along the lines of the iPhone—one that could send shockwaves across the entertainment, advertising, commerce, media and gaming worlds.

Take smartphones, for example. After observing a video released by Google today, a clip which showcases the digitally-enhanced headwear’s technological advancements, some industry players contend that if consumers take a shine to Glass the device would challenge iPhones, Androids, etc. Theoretically, in this tech-loving world, it could become numerous consumers’ go-to mechanism for many things they currently do on smartphones, such as playing games, shooting videos, "second-screening" and finding local businesses on the go.

“I love it for no other reason than that it actually feels like we are being pulled forward,” said Ian Shafer, CEO of Deep Focus. “It’s hard to say that something like that has happened since the iPhone. The innovation aspect just makes it seems like a big pull forward.”

Implications abound for mobile commerce and entertainment. “It’ll be an opportunity to get information that users currently would find with their phone,” Shafer explained. “They could actually pull it out of thin air—whether it’s buying movie tickets or getting show times, etc. When you think of things we are accustomed to getting from our mobile device, this is even more immediate gratification from an information perspective.”

From a marketing standpoint, the Deep Focus exec said, it could make augmented reality worth more advertising spend. “If it is as simple as just looking at something, that will remove a big barrier of entry for people,” he said.

Greg Stuart, CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association, said Google Glass could evolve advertising in unforeseen ways. “I believe in the ingenuity of people,” he said, “and our ability to fill white space.”

If you're already champing at the bit to buy ads on Google Glass, you're in luck: Andrew Couch, executive officer at software developer Candy Lab, said that his company is ready to roll with Google Glass as soon as it starts shipping—after its smartphone and tablet alternate-reality overlay app Cachetown shipped, Candy Lab has been approached by parties from Chase to NASA about using the GPS encoding software to add in branded overlays.

With Google Glass, Couch predicts, "you can open up your Chase app, do a 360 turn with your phone and the ATM closest to you will appear closer; the ATM farthest to you will appear farther away."

It's important, by the way, to understand what Google Glass is and is not—it is not a phone; it is a really extravagant expansion for your current phone, like a BlueTooth headset for your eyes. The product is wirelessly connected to your phone's GPS and microprocessor and so on; it uses all that power in your hip pocket to run recognition software and display hardware mounted on your head.

It's also going to be the first product in Google's newly announced retail stores, Couch said— and "they're not going to get into the software side of advertising."

That, he said, is up to the developers. "So far we're the only ones, but I'll tell you what, if you don't start with the augmented reality you own yourself and jump right in, it really is a pain to figure all that out." Couch knows that for a fact—when Candy Lab was trying to create Cachetown, they couldn't get anyone to cooperate with them to help the GPS overlay software, and they had to draw up the whole thing from scratch.

You can get a sense of what advertising on Glass will look like from that app, which already does something similar using your iOS or Android tablet as a window into a Mario-like world of "coins" that grant real-world rewards (kicking turtles is not recommended by the app creator).The ability to overlay game or commercial applications on real-life surfaces would seem to be this ad come to life.

In addition to advertising and other media-consumption attributes, Google Glass could prove to be a valuable production tool for creatives. Filmmakers and videographers could utilize the device to create stylistic footage, in the tradition of auteur or cinéma vérité.

“That first-person point of view can be a really fun storytelling mechanism,” Shafer from Deep Focus said. “People who start getting their hands on these things early on will be experimenting with content creation.”

Take televised football games, as another example, he said. “You could certainly see coaches wearing these on the sidelines,” Shafer said. “NFL Films’ biggest innovation was mic-ing up the sidelines. This would be essentially ‘camming’ up the sidelines.”

The gaming applications for Google Glass are also tantalizing—imagine playing capture the flag with your friends in Grand Central Station, or fighting ghosts in Central Park. Google Glass isn't a screen in the traditional sense—it's an overlay, so the only real use it could conceivable have in terms of traditional, sitting-in-front-of-your-television gaming would be as an alternate HUD (heads-up display)—an alternative to the health meters that usually sit in the corner of the screen. There are obviously other, more elaborate things it could do, but it seems like it would likely be more of a peripheral when paired with your Xbox and your plasma screen.

There are hurdles here, of course. What's more, it's fair to wonder—in this struggling economy—whether the initial price-point of $1,500 might stymie consumer excitement and early adoption for when it becomes available in 2014.

And lastly, not everyone sees the future when watching the Google Glass video (check it out below). In fact, Lindsey Holmes, CEO of local marketing firm LCH Business SM & Tech, said the device looks “douchey.”

“And I’m a big Google and a big innovation fan,” Holmes said. “It looks like Star Trek, and we are not there yet. I have practical questions, too, as people would be bumping into each other. And what if I already wear glasses?”

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