Friday, November 18, 2011

Towards socially-acceptable goggles

Holiday season is fast approaching in the US and retailers are starting to offer attractive shopping discounts. A few years ago, my wife asked me to go to a home goods store during holiday season and buy some wine glasses. It was a cold day, and my cell phone was tucked inside my jacket while I was using an earphone in the store to speaking with my wife and decide together on which wine glass set to buy. At that time, mobile earphones were such an uncommon sight that several older ladies approached me - as I had appeared to be speaking to myself - to inquire if everything was OK.

How times have changed. Using a cell phone earpiece or Bluetooth device in a shopping mall - a complete oddity just a few years back - is now completely socially acceptable.

When would it and what would it take to have wearing virtual reality goggles become socially acceptable? Today, when I meet someone at a coffee shop and take out the goggles, people start coming over from adjacent tables to take a look. That's great if you want to sell goggles, but what would need to happen so that you can wear goggles in public unnoticed?

Clearly, the definition of what is 'socially acceptable' changes over time. Purple hair color? Diamond studs for man? Body piercing? Bluetooth headsets? All of these used to be outside the norm and now hardly worth a second look.

What were the motivations of the first people that stepped out of the 'socially acceptably' domain? Using a headset is probably about utility: it is more convenient, perhaps healthier. I don't think too many people used a headset because they felt it was overly aesthetic. On the flip side, there was little actual utility in dying your hair purple. A diamond stud doesn't make you hear better, but some think it makes you look better or draw more attention.

In the case of virtual reality goggles, we'll probably have to go the utility route. If you just want a pair of cool-looking sunglasses, just go to the store and buy cool-looking sunglasses!

What will goggles need to do so that they would be widely worn? If a Bluetooth headset is an audio extension of your phone, what will the visual extension of the phone be? Is it just about reading text messages or looking at driving directions without starting at the phone? What is the killer app? Write back to let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have mounted a vuzix wrap in a cap which works quite well but I feel too self concious to use it on a train. And Maybe I shouldn't have used electrical tape.