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Google Glasses could unwittingly take on GoPro – but will it matter?

Google Glasses could unwittingly take on GoPro

There was a lot to love about the opening day of Google I/O. The Nexus 7 tablet has officially put the Kindle Fire and Nook tablet on notice, we finally got the first official look at Jelly Bean, and something of a surprise in the Nexus Q. But that all pales in comparison to the pageantry and spectacle of the Google Glasses demo.

The attendees and livestreaming world watched as Sergey Brin took the stage wearing Google Glasses and showed off a liveGoogle+ hangout  feed of skydivers wearing the device. I won’t recap the entire exhibition for you, but suffice it to say an impression was made.

So far, there are no real specs available for Google Glasses. After a sampling of feedback from today’s event, we do know:

  • They’re lightweight
  • Have a connected battery park, reasonably small
  • The “Explorer Edition” for developers will start shipping next year for $1,500
  • Plenty of  bugs
  • “Powerful” processor
  • Multiple gyroscopes

The excitement is palpable as the first pictures of people finally trying the glasses on are flooding Twitter, and the first hands-on articles begin hitting the Web. Project Glass is definitely on the cutting edge, the next step in augmented reality – but does it already have a competitor in GoPro, the veteran wearable action cam company? The question is being tentatively asked around the Web as demos continue to go live.

Not to be too frustrating, but unfortunately the answer is yes and no.

Yes

There isn’t anything quite like Google Glasses, but when you cut through all the next-gen hype, what we’re initially seeing is a product used for action video and photography. Yes, Google also demoed other use scenarios, but that skydiving-gopro helmet camBMX biking-rappelling showcase was certainly the main attraction.

For these purposes, GoPro has established itself as the product to beat, even as new devices like the ION Air Pro and a Sony gadget in the works offer new competition. GoPro has remained the on the cutting edge of sports media, and has serious ties and connections to athletes and industry types. But Google is Google, and the hype machine churning out Google Glasses is a powerful one.

It would seem that Google’s in no rush to get these things into consumers’ hands. Even still, how could a sports media group see today’s demo and not start wondering about the possibilities of outfitting professional athletes with these things? I’d even reason that the guarateed attention grab you’d get from using Google Glasses could convince some to use them over GoPro products, which at the moment yields higher quality and obviously costs less (the HD Hero2 costs $300 on its own).

No

Google Glasses’ next-gen technology, mountains of buzz, and even just the name Google should make GoPro nervous for its long-term future, but at the moment, it’s safe to say GoPro can relax: Google is clearly content to hit the developer community hard.

There are bigger fish to fry here, and that is what’s leading the augmented-reality revolution that Google X foresees: Project Glass doesn’t see this as a novelty product for no-hands camera situations – it sees this as the next smartphone. The next device we use for mass digital interaction. The next thing that becomes keeps us connected and thus becomes connected to us, to the point that we wouldn’t leave home without it.

I’m not saying that’s necessarily what’s going to happen, but it’s certainly what Google X wants to happen. And when Google wants something, that’s the way the money goes.

The priority, then, will be working with developers to take the world of apps we’re currently living in and bring it to this new system and interface, which is nothing short of a potentially huge challenge. Improving the Glasses’ action-sports potential with a better camera, better sensors, no distracting displays during game time – is lower than low on the to-do list.

Google’s eye is on the future. There may be some bandwagon-jumpers who go for the name and grab Google Glasses in favor of GoPro, but in the long run, you have to bet that a focus on action-cam quality wins the race.