Tuesday, July 18, 2017 could forever go down as the day Google, er, Alphabet changed the course of the discussion around artificial intelligence and automation in the workplace. I know, I know: It’s a little bit early (and probably more than a little bit optimistic) to go proclaiming Glass Enterprise Edition
as a revolutionary technology, but there I think there really is a lot of promise in the product and the idea of augmented reality in the workplace. For jobs where Glass makes sense—Alphabet points to manufacturing, logistics, field services and health care—it could help people do their jobs better and more efficiently without the need for robotics or heavy-handed software systems.
Some folks have questioned the extent to which automation will actually eliminate human jobs, suggesting instead that humans and machines will co-exist and learn to make each other better. I happen to think there’s something to that argument (in some, but not all situations), but what if equipping people with something like Glass helped them improve enough that it actually mitigates the need for automation on a larger scale? There certainly are reasons for companies to continue employing as many people as possible, and augmenting employees with smart glasses might be a way to get the best of both worlds.
I also realize that Epson, among others(?) has been selling its own take on Glass Enterprise for years, but Epson doesn’t have a global cloud footprint and the hordes of highly skilled software engineers and AI researchers. The abundance of cloud computing power today, as well as the breakneck pace of innovation in AI and hardware architecture, could make this new, targeted version of Glass much more useful than the previous iteration. If Amazon, Microsoft and Apple also get into the glasses game, competition will push the pace of improvement even faster.
It would have been easy for Alphabet to just kill Glass and write it off as a great idea ahead of its time, but instead the company identified its bright spots and worked with that user base to turn it into a targeted product. I might be guilty of over-optimism or just flat-out naïveté, but I also think there’s a there there. In a time where people are fretting about automation while technology is hurtling down the track, I have high hopes for Glass Enterprise Edition and whatever market grows around it.
I linked to the blog post on Glass Enterprise from Alphabet X above, but here are a couple of other good takes on it:
And completely (or mostly) unrelated to Glass, here are three other things I want to point out today:
Google Cloud delivers its take on Amazon Snowball: And in the tradition of inspirational Google product-naming, it is called the Transfer Appliance. Plug it into your rack, transfer data to it, and ship it back to Google.
Two new security startups launched/raised money: StackRox, which is doing security for container environments (and whose founders will be the podcast guests this week); and Corelight, which is selling a network appliance based on the open source Bro project.
An IBM exec rebuts Watson criticism: Vijay Vijayasankar doesn’t work on Watson, but like everyone else at IBM he works with the Watson teams. He makes some fair points about why criticism of Watson is not warranted, but it’s hard to agree with his comments on marketing. As I’ve said before, I think Watson is probably technically capable, but it’s the over-promising that has generated much of the criticism.