The Science of Smartglasses: Why consumers don’t embrace them (yet)

Glasshole or employee of the month?

The first real smartglass, Google Glass, was shown to the public in 2012. With a special programm Google revealed it’s “Explorer Edition” and failed. Society was irritated about the features and about pictures that can be taken with a wink of an eye. The Media even created the term “glasshole”, for people that use Google Glass in public. Although Google published some tips on how to behave using the device, society stayed sceptical and most of the users were disappointed because of performance issues. But by now there are more and more hardware suppliers releasing smart glasses. So it’s time for a re-evaluation of the situation.

What do people think about using smart glasses? How does the perception differ between users and external observers? Which daily situations are totally incapable for the use of smartglasses? A study of the University Passau has dealt with these and additional questions on the perception of smartglasses. A reason for iTiZZiMO to have a closer look at the results and to compare them with our experiences. The study examines several scenarios regarding their suitability for smartglass use. The scenarios were analyzed from the perspective of the user himself, a direct opposite and an external observer. And to be honest: the results did not really surprise us.

Established devices (smart phones were used in the study) are far more accepted than smartglasses.

Every technology has to establish itself first. Although the concept of Head-Mounted-Displays is not new at all, one can only really talk about smartglasses in it’s current form since Google Glass, which had a great impact on media and society. The technology can be compared to the development of the walkman, which also was said to isolate its user and to make them behave in a inappropriate way when worn in situations with personal contact.

But despite all these headwinds, new technologies often always have established in the past and have eventually found their way into society. Not every device needs to offer a universal stack of features and should be used the whole day. Even listening to music is seen as negative when done in situations with pesonal communication. In the future we will see if smart glasses find their way too.

The Sony Walkman: Initially frowned upon, it later became a status symbol in the 80s for young people. Source: Wikipedia

Frau mit Kopfhörern

Headphones are widely accepted in today’s society. Companies like Apple or Beats even made them a status symbol. Source: Sascha Kohlmann “Woman with Headphones”

Women are more critical of smart glasses.

Especially in situations with face-to-face communication, women are more critical of smartglasses. According to the experts, several reasons are possible:

  • Females are less technology-affine and rarely Early Adopters
  • women are more afraid to be observed

Still the majority of early adopters of new technologies are male. Fitness trackers with limited functionality are used by both genders approximately the same. But when it comes to more complex smart glasses and smart watches, the users are more likely to be male. This is the rresult of a study by the market research institute Fittkau & Maaß Consulting made for the Internet World fair. More than 6500 internet users in Germany were asked about their current use of wearables and the future plans. The results show that 70% of smart watch owners are male but only 52% own a fitness tracker.

Consumers are irritated about the purpose of smartglasses.

A mp3-player (or former walkman) is without a doubt made for listening to music, other features are rare. The device itself is kept in a pocket and only the headphones are a sign for its presence. A smartphone offers a lot of functions but people can for example easily tell if they’re being videotaped or photographed, because you have to hold your smartphone in a certain way. Even with the best smartphone camera, the user needs to focus on the object he wants to take a picture of. With smartglasses, this becomes obsolete as the camera follows the natural viewing direction. Additionally, many respondents think that smart glasses record the whole time they are worn. Thus, it is recommended to clearly communicate the reasons for wearing the glasses. But this won’t be possible when more smart glasses are used in our private day-to-day life. Another solution would be to entirely scrape the camera from smartglasses, but then you would lose a vital feature.

Greater acceptance in business.

Leaving the private sector and looking at the business side of smartglasses, they are seen as far more accepted because they act as a tool to support productivity. This is valid for internal processes, when only employees are involved, as well as for use cases such as doctor visits or field service.


Smartglasses will definitely prevail within the business sector, starting with internal processes with a clearly defined range of functions. Other service applications will follow and the general public will more and more get in contact with the devices.

Those professional users will (have to) undertake the task of explaining the fuctions and benefits. To increase the acceptance of smartglasses in public, the researchers propose to design glasses for specific applications as smartglasses used while skiing or cycling are perceived as less negative. Specialized smartglasses for specific tasks are recommended for private use as well as modules with different functions. They might never become an allrounder like smartphones.

But a modular design won’t be successful in the B2C market as customers prefer uncompllicated and flexible devices. Especially within the B2C market, devices with limited funcionality need to be established. But these changes are subject to changes in society. Modular design is suitable for business-use, but only when the additional devices are extremely expensive, sensitive or heavy and can’t be used permanently. As there are already so many functions combined in high-performance industrial smartglasses like the ODG R-7, we are eager to see what the future holds.

Despite all the worries, smartglasses have the potential to enrich and possibly revolutionize business and private life, even if their role is not completely clear yet.

Do you want to know how smart glasses can change the way we work?

Here’s an example for changing workflows within laboratories.