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Google Glass has been making headlines since well before its public release on April 15th, 2014. This wearable technology has the ability to capture the first-person perspective with a camera device built into the eyewear, leaving the Glass user completely hands free. Just as Apple disrupted markets with the iPhone and iPad, Google is targeting the wearable technology market with Glass. The device presents new opportunities and use cases for both consumers and businesses needing access to hands-free computing.
Glass also raises issues. Privacy is a major concern as there are no visual cues indicating whether the device is recording. Just the presence of Glass can create angst for bystanders particularly if they don’t understand the product. A common misconception is that Glass is always on and capturing everything in its surroundings through video – much like a surveillance device. Glass has even been accused of bringing an end to privacy.
Apps add value
Critics question the usefulness of Glass and remain unconvinced of its longevity in the technology world. It should be noted, however, that this same scepticism was presentwhen the iPad was first introduced. The creation of third party apps tend to ease scepticism over time as they deliver more value and acceptance for the product – just as the iPad experienced. The iPad was released in the spring of 2010 and has since sold over 170m devices as of last year with over 475,000 native apps available. However, in the early days of the iPad many could not understand how the device could be useful.
Existing apps for Glass run the gamut of personal and business use. Consumers benefit from apps for navigation, perfecting a golf swing or even shooting a firearm. As a Glass Explorer, I can surf the web with simple voice commands, snap photographs and best of all, capture video of my son coming down the slide while I have both hands free ready to catch him. From a business perspective, international business travellers are able to translate street signs instantly with apps like Word Lens. The healthcare industry instantly found value in the hands free component of Glass by training surgeons during real medical procedures. Attorneys have been using Glass for digital dictation and juror selection. The law firm Fennemore Craig lends clients Glass to show jurors first-hand what life is like for personal injury plaintiffs.
Process mapping through Glass
How else is Glass adding value in the legal industry? Attorney and friend, Nicole Black from MyCase, predicts that Glass adoption will accelerate in 2016. Black’s timeline parallels the adoption rate that iPads experienced in legal. It took a couple years for apps like TrialPad, iJuror and Dragon Dictation to enter the market and give the iPad real uses in a legal setting. While existing Glass apps demonstrate little relevancy for legal, the hands free component coupled with the camera can still add tremendous value – Glass can be a game changer for process mapping.
A process map is a pictorial representation of a sequence of actions that comprise a process. Process maps are used to describe, document and understand the work we do. They can either be used to simply document a given process to hand off to a new hire or they can be created to identify areas of complexity and re-work. Often times, process maps will reveal hidden factories allowing us to eliminate non value-add activities. With alternative fee arrangements on the rise, firms are being forced to be more efficient and process mapping can be just the tool to streamline inefficient processes.
Using Glass challenges the status quo for process mapping. Traditional process mapping exercises consist of observers looking over the shoulder of workers as they perform tasks. This method of collecting information is time-consuming and results in a small number of observations. Glass could be leveraged in process mapping by having the associate wear the device continuously throughout the day until enough information is collected and an adequate sample size is gathered. Doing so would create a first-hand perspective of the tasks performed, potentially uncovering additional steps or exposing re-work. If an observer were to shadow an associate, this may last for several hours at most. If an associate were to wear Glass, data could be collected for a longer period of time, such as a week, which would result in a larger sample size of the tasks performed ultimately providing more data for better decision making.
The Hawthorne effect
Wearing Glass versus hiring an observer would also likely reduce the influence of the Hawthorne effect on the data. The Hawthorne effect is a phenomenon in which subjects in behavioural studies change their performance in response to being observed. The Hawthorne effect study suggested that the novelty of having research conducted and the
increased attention from it could lead to temporary increases in productivity. For example, a study conducted by researchers at Newcastle University revealed that by simply placing images of the human eye throughout a cafeteria, people were twice as likely to clean up after themselves. The study demonstrated with statistical significance that ‘the physical presence of other people in the room or other non-verbal cues of proximity or visibility’ changes behaviour.
We have all been exposed to the Hawthorne effect, whether or not we realize it. When being observed, we tend to ‘be better’ or do things ‘the right way’. You may run a little bit faster when passing your neighbour during your jog or even decide to recycle an old document if you know someone is watching you, even if you typically do not recycle. In the context of process mapping, an associate may document a client request as soon as it is received if they know someone is watching them; whereas generally, documentation may not actually occur until after the meeting has been scheduled. Using Glass can help prevent these fallacies and help produce raw, unfiltered results.
Of course, using Glass for process mapping does not come without some risk of the Hawthorne effect. Associates may act slightly different during the first several hours of wearing the device. However, the impact should be less significant than a person standing over one’s shoulder and provides a larger sample size to be collected. Wearing Glass feels similar to a bulky pair of eyeglasses so the transition is fairly seamless.
Technology’s role in legal services is becoming increasingly prevalent. Innovation has been shown to add value and gives firms that are open to new ways of operating a competitive edge. However, that doesn’t mean that Glass will be infiltrating firms tomorrow. With the steep cost of $1,500 and much ambiguity around app development and its overall usefulness in the legal industry, firms are not likely to blindly spend the cash without a concrete use case that derives significant value. This is prudent and not at all surprising.
Using Glass for personal injury cases, juror selection or process mapping may or may not be the use case for your firm. The future of Glass remains to be seen; however, the future of wearable technology appears promising. Google’s introduction of Glass has led to a conservative forecast of the wearable technology market to exceed $6B by 2016. Of course, this forecast is a consumer-driven phenomenon but like any other consumer-driven device, the popular ones always make their way into the business world eventually. Once the price has dropped, more legal-specific apps are created and overall familiarity and acceptance increases that comes with time, Glass will become more relevant in the legal industry and will provide different benefits to different law firms depending on their needs.
Ted Theodoropoulos is the President of Acrowire, an IT consulting firm specializing in technology solutions for legal services. Ted helps firms increase productivity and eliminate inefficiencies, ultimately accelerating growth through SharePoint development, software development, business process improvement and cloud services. He can be contacted at email@example.com
This article was first published in Legal IT Today, issue 6, June 2014