Google Glass 2.0 is About Learning Smarter

Last week, Google announced the relaunch of its polarizing wearable tech product, Google Glass. Google is rebranding the entire project as Glass Enterprise Edition.

There was no middle ground when it came to the first edition of Google Glass: you either loved it or you couldn’t think of a bigger waste of $1,500. There are no shortage of people who will tell you Glass’ first roll-out was an abject failure. So what’s the reason for this comeback?

It seems that Google is giving Glass another try for the sake of learning. There is a large market for technologies that allow businesses, especially enterprise-level, to harness more productivity from their employees. With Glass, employees have access to just-in-time learning that can drastically improve their performance. Google and Alphabet have pivoted away from a consumer-facing product and hedged their bets on a tool for enterprise teams that allows employees to do better work.

Learning tools are always in high demand

In the post announcing the Glass Enterprise Edition, Jay Kothri, Project Lead for the Glass team, describes a scene at a GE Aviation factory in 2014:

“My team was… watching how mechanics assemble and repair airplane engines. Airplane maintenance is a complex and specialized task, and any errors can lead to expensive delays or having to conduct the entire maintenance process all over again. The mechanics moved carefully, putting down tools and climbing up and down ladders to consult paper instructions in between steps.”

Of course, constructing machines that are responsible for flying human beings through the air raises the stakes a little bit. But just as GE relies on its engineers to build airplanes, every business relies on its employees to complete tasks that are often “complex and specialized.” The organizations that prepare and equip their teams in the most cost-effective manner are the most competitive.

Google has realized that Glass’ greatest strength is providing companies with technology that equips employees to do better work. This market will never dry up. As innovation and production continues forward, businesses will seek new ways to gain an advantage. Employee learning is one of the best arenas to apply these new technologies. According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends for 2017,

“Today, we see learning function as a highly strategic business area that focuses on innovation and leadership development by delivering world-class learning experiences, promoting lifetime learning for longer careers, and bringing multifunctional teams together to connect and collaborate.”

New learning technology drives real performance

In its most basic form, Glass Enterprise Edition helps people accomplish a task by giving them essential contextual information. In Jay’s post about GE Aviation, there’s a photo of Google Glass next to the thick engine assembly manual it replaced. The image is striking, but the implications are bigger. Google has created, through advancements in technology, a system that allows aviation engineers to quickly access critical knowledge that has been locked away in a gigantic, hard-to-read manual.
Google Glass Enterprise Edition
GE estimates that their mechanics have increased efficiency by 8-12% since adopting Glass. ACGO, another Glass Enterprise user, has reduced machinery production time by 25%. Shipping company DHL estimates that supply chain efficiency has increased by 15%. These are the types of improvements that some of the world’s biggest companies are seeing by providing employees with the knowledge they need, right when they need it. And these innovations don’t have to stop with manufacturing roles. As technology advances to fit more business use cases, more and more departments will see similar benefits.

So what brought back Google Glass? Recognition that its strength wasn’t checking your Twitter feed from a screen on your glasses. The Glass revival is a glimpse into the future of learning. The different types of online training software that exists today are the best tools for providing highly contextual information that people need to do their jobs. But, it’s worth considering as technology continues to advance—learning tools might look less like the traditional learning & development department, and a little bit more like Google Glass.

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