The Challenge of Developing Engaging Consumer Apps on Glass

This post was originally featured on the Pristine Blog

In my presentation, Glass Insights, I present the case that it will be very difficult for consumer Glass apps to make any money. There are a number of compounding reasons:

1) Low hardware volumes (Glass volumes will be at best a few percent of smartphone volumes). Consumer apps require large volumes.

2) The cost of wearing Glass, coupled with an inherent lack of use cases. Glass competes with non-consumption = smartphones. Smartphones are quite good at what they do.

3) Inability for Glass apps to create addictive, regular behaviors.

I haven't talked much about the third. It will be the focus of this post.

Massively successful mobile consumer apps have to be sticky and addictive. Without exception, every major consumer focused technology startup has thrived on a large community that's dedicated to using the app regularly. In most cases, regularly means more than once per day, if not a dozen of times per day. See Dropbox, Facebook, Foursquare, Mailbox, Pintrest, Snapchat, and Twitter as examples. Users of these services interact with them every day. These apps derive value from interaction that creates addictive, repeatable behaviors. Interactivity is key. That's exactly why Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures passed on the opportunity to invest in Pandora. Pandora isn't conducive towards interactivity; users simply turn on Pandora and let it run in the background.

Glass is an inherently passive form factor. Apps can't be very interactive because Glass simply lacks the input mechanisms that provide the foundation for interactive apps. To recap, the input mechanisms are:

1. Trackpad (what a useless piece of unnatural, frustrating shit)

2. Voice

3. Camera

4. Accelerometer

5. Proximity sensor (wink!)

No combination of these input methods can create a compelling, engaging experiences. Glass wasn't designed to create engaging experiences. Per Google, Glass is "there when you need it, and out of sight when you don't." Glass isn't "a cool platform that you can play with on your face all day."

Moreover, humans love touching things, and Glass eschews touching in favor of voice. Voice is the best input method on Glass today, and will be until there's a 20x leap in battery technology that supports recording video all day. I think most would concur that voice is intrinsically less personal than touch, creating another barrier for addictive apps.

So Glass apps can't be engaging or interactive. Can they at least be used regularly? There's no reason they couldn't be, but I've yet to find a single regular use case for Glass that more than 2% of society would find useful. Glass presents opportunities for millions of trivial, one-off consumer use cases. But Glass simply isn't useful for 98% of people's daily activities. I recognize that there are uses for Glass in everyone of the activities presented below, but no more than 1-2% of people will actually find Glass useful in these scenarios:

Wake up, get ready for the day


Go to work / school

Go somewhere for a meeting / meal

Go to a bar / coffee shop / lounge after hours

Go to a restaurant for dinner

Go to a park / movie theatre / bowling / fun place

Come home, watch tv, talk with family / friends, eat

Prepare for sleep

I stand by my prediction: In Glass's current incarnation (screen floating in the corner of your eye, no eye tracking, no hand tracking) not a single Glass-native consumer app will exit for more than $100M.