The Meh-Too Crowd

It’s been a while since I came to Google’s defense but I think it’s time to talk about what an absolute downer it is to dig through a lot of tech commentary these days. The most recent example came after the launch of Google’s Glass project, a HUD for future travelers that will let us connect to our world in a fairly non-obtrusive way. Arguably, the product is pretty pie-in-the-sky, but all things being equal, the potential device, even if it includes a small subset of the features we saw in the video, is pretty cool.

Instead of oohing and guffawing and going back to, you know, living his life, Old Man Gruber took some time out to dump three links to examples of the potential problems Glass faces. He noted, quite rightly, that only the worst companies created flashy videos of non-existent tech.

But this is Google. They have a lot of money. Even if they create a HUD display that doesn’t suck and that can connect to your Android phone, they could have something relatively cool on the market. I’m not saying they’ll sell a million (they probably will) and I’m not saying they’ll make a product as cool as it appears in the video (they probably won’t) but can’t the geek in us be happy that they’re actually trying? We’ve been promised this for years, and suddenly it’s here.

I usually grunt along with Gruber and MG and the rest of the Meh-Too crowd when it comes to the hot-button fanboy issues. Android vs. iPhone? I’ll snort in derision with the best of them. Windows 8 being the next big thing? I’ll shrug my shoulders alongside the greats. But for the love of Pete, we’re in technology. We love technology. That we would wish Google to fail in this next generation of interface and user experience is akin to hoping Jeremy Lin loses a leg to gangrene because we don’t like the Knicks. It’s mean.

Here’s Gruber (and trust me, I think Gruber is one of the best talkers on tech out there so I don’t even want to call him out on this but I feel I must, at least for my own sanity):

Google’s transition into the new Microsoft is now complete: fancy-pants sci-fi concept video to promote stunningly awkward augmented reality glasses.

Sure it’s fancy-pants and it’s sci-fi and it’s a concept – but it’s a concept that can easily move from drawing board to street. There are already plenty of HUD glasses – none of them are any good – and there are already plenty of concepts for interacting with the world a la Glass that look far more sci-fi than anything in Google’s video. Google’s concept is actually fairly staid, the company is pretty solid and it can usually push its brainstorms to market – witness Google TV and Android. Say what you want about the aforementioned products. If Google can do one thing consistently, it’s ship.

If Microsoft brought this video out and said Windows 8 would have a special Windows Vision mode, I’d be less inclined to believe that it would ship. Microsoft is no good at getting hardware out the door. Software, sure. But they don’t have a good track record when it comes to changing what chips we buy. Google, on the other hand, can probably pull it off.

So what’s with accusing them of pre-crime? Let them try. See it fail or see it change the mobile landscape or see it become a useful and interesting new branch of UX. In any case, admit that it’s pretty cool.

What did Kurt Vonnegut say? “At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

We can disagree over politics, we can disagree over corporate directions, and we can disagree over platforms. But you can’t disagree that sometimes it’s just about wonder, whimsy, and the future we’re bequeathing to ourselves and our babies.