When Google announced that it would test Google Glass in Canada, David Ciccarelli was the first in line—so keen that he entered Google’s If I Had Glass contest and paid $1,500 for the privilege of being an early adopter.
But Ciccarelli, a Toronto-based entrepreneur who owns Voices.com (an online marketplace to help businesses find professional voice actors), swears he’s not a geek. “If it was all about the tech, I’d have the latest and greatest of everything—and I don’t,” he says. He did it because he believes there’s a first-mover advantage in being among the first to test-drive potentially ground-breaking technology.
“It wasn’t the geek in me; it was the entrepreneur,” says Ciccarelli. He believes Google Glass will be as significant for entrepreneurial innovation as podcasting was back in 2006 and iPhones in recent years.
Last year, Forrester predicted that wearable devices are going to explode onto the market, with countless applications in health and fitness, navigation, social networking, commerce, and media. Video games that happen in real space; glasses that remind you of your colleague’s name that you really should know; a watch that connects to your data in the cloud—these applications are all being developed. Nokia has even filed a patent for a vibrating tattoo that could alert you when someone calls or texts you.
The one hitch: wearables have a tendency to make people look like, well, Glassholes—the term commonly attributed to TechCrunch.com that has become the insult du jour among techies.
Existing pieces of functional technology, like the Bluetooth headset, have been lumped into the same category as the Blackberry holster: if you have one, you’re a dork. The same stigma is starting to infect Glass. Daniella Yacobovsky, co-founder of BaubleBar, an online jewelry retailer, told the New York Times: “Is it useful? Of course it is. Do I look like a tool? Yeah. I’m not going to wear it.”
That attitude irks Ciccarelli. “People are writing about something they don’t use themselves—or they’ve had a five-minute demo and said, I just don’t want to look like a dork.'”
Anyways, Glass isn’t like other wearables, says Ciccarelli. Glass is always on, always listening. “I would consider that persistent tech versus something I need to boot up, swipe, unlock, open an app.” A Bluetooth device is merely hands-free; Glass is different because it brings the screen to your eye, the next phase in the trend of screens getting closer and closer to the user. “It started with the TV on your wall, then your laptop at a desk, then your smartphone, and now a cubed crystal display an inch from your eye,” says Ciccarelli.
It’s enough of a disruption in computing technology that Ciccarelli is basing an entire company on it: the newly incorporated Glassly.com will be a content management system for developers looking to create glassware—software for Google Glass.
Like all hardware, Glass is nothing without software. Ciccarelli knows that, and he wants to be part of the coming app explosion. The big five software platforms—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook—will all work on creating mainstream uses for the glasses, which can do anything an iPhone does but faster and more seamlessly. While each of the five has its own unique strengths (Apple has slick design; Facebook has data on 800 million people), Ciccarelli believes there’s a big opportunity for entrepreneurs to help take Glass from geeky hardware to a tool as common as a smartphone. “The reason it took [Voices] so long to get on the iPhone is that the barriers to developing an app are fairly high,” he says. “We’re hoping to change that.” Glassly is meant to help developers build apps without some of those barriers.
The low-hanging fruit, according to Ciccarelli, is content development. Right now, there are only a handful of apps available if you want to read, say, a magazine using Glass. Only 8,000 devices are in circulation globally right now—fewer than 10 in Canada. “When there are 100,000, there are going to be marketers who want to target these tech-savvy, high-net-worth people,” says Ciccarelli. “How do you do that? You’ve got to get onto their device somehow. And the best way to do that is publish some kind of content.”
Ciccarelli’s first idea: get his network of voice actors to read content for Glass users. Currently, if you want something read aloud to you, you have to settle for a robotic voice that Ciccarelli’s wife says lacks even Siri‘s sass.
While he acknowledges that the fashion factor is a legitimate concern, he’s not worried. His experience so far wearing Glass in New York? “You get a lot of double takes or long stares—but you also get people walk right up to you and say, That is super cool, what is that?’ All it’s going to take is a few thousand people being seen with [Glass]—you’ll see it in a movie, or you get Justin Bieber wearing it—and it will become normal.”