Will the British take to Google Glass?

Prince Charles tries on Google Glass

It has been the most talked-about new gadget of the last year (not always in a good way) and now Google Glass is coming to the UK.

Anyone with £1000 to spare can order the wearable computer that delivers smartphone information into a screen above your right eye. Then they can reach their own conclusion about whether it is the future of communication - or computing's equivalent of the Sinclair C5.

The UK version will recognise the Queen's English (I found while testing the US product that you needed a Brooklyn twang to be understood) and will have a number of new apps designed for the British market.

WATCH: Rory chats to Ivy Ross, leader of the Google Glass project

A few weeks ago, after wearing it for a couple of months, I wrote that Google Glass was a fascinating failure in its present form. Google itself seems aware that it is far from ready for the wider consumer market, and recently appointed a new leader for the project.

Ivy Ross is not a computer scientist but has had a career in design and marketing at companies like Calvin Klein, Gap and Swatch. When I interview her in the new Glass showroom in London's Kings Cross, I ask her first to give her name and title to test sound levels: "Ivy Ross, fearless leader of Glass," she responds, with a grin - and she may need to be fearless.

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To reach a wider public, Glass... and its team will have to show that it really can make its users feel they couldn't leave home without it”

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I put it to her that the main issue with Glass is a simple one - it makes those who wear it look a bit weird. She says it has already evolved a lot. Early versions involved strapping something that looked like a circuit board to your head - but yes, more work needs to be done in that area, as well as in software.

The other big question is what is it for. She says Glass delivers "information when you want it, how you want it, without having to disengage from life". But she concedes that the "killer app" has not yet been discovered - "we have to continue to hone in on utility - we don't have all the answers yet". I'm shown one rather magical new app which maps the constellations when you look up at the night sky, but there will need to be far more.

Glass was unveiled two years ago, and the Explorer testing programme has been up and running for more than a year, but there is still no sense that it is ready for release to the wider consumer market. Ivy Ross says there have been 12 software updates, and five hardware updates so far, but there is still a lot more to do: "Until we feel comfortable we have a product that will serve the wider public we are going to continue to innovate and learn."

Beyond the technology enthusiasts and the developers who need to know what this new product might mean, there are others trying it out, from doctors teaching students how to carry out a procedure to museums wondering whether they can improve the visitor experience.

But to reach a wider public, Glass will have to be a lot cheaper - probably under $500 which might mean £400 in the UK - and its team will have to show that it really can make its users feel they couldn't leave home without it.

Ivy Ross doesn't underestimate the challenge: "It's an extraordinarily complicated product, it's a new category that we are inventing, not just a new product." But she insists that eventually this will be a product that lots of people - not just gadget obsessives - want in their lives. Let's see how many British people sign up for an early - and very expensive - glimpse of this promised revolution.

Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    23. SJH
    Can you get them on the NHS?
    Only if you don't need them for any medical reason...!!!
    I think they call it "Visual Augmentation"

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Can you get them on the NHS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I think they're a great idea, I can't afford them at £1000 though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    BBC yet again pushing the hard sell for Google Glass. But, why? Will it care to tell people of the dangers of wearing these items in the wrong places. Attacks on "glass holes" are very high per the few Glass wearers that exist You will carry a risk wearing these things in private spaces, like bars, restaurants, coffee houses, wear people demand privacy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    #12.fz1biker, #5 "... Right, so you're saying that a company has poured millions into a product, publicised it and are now only getting round to thinking about what it could be used for and who will buy it?.."

    This is Google we are talking about here. They are spending multi billions to buy companies purely on speculation about a future tech. A few 100 million on glasses is nothing to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Personally, I think it could be a great tool.
    I can remember as the internet kicked off, I talked to people who couldn't see the point of it. "Why would I need all the information and stuff" etc Same when the smart phones came along. "Tch, a phone is meant for talking on" etc etc.
    All that's needed is the tech in enough hands, and slowly but surely, uses will be found for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Yes – Just like the smart phone, you can’t un-invent it.

    It will have some great uses.

    But just like the smart phone, it will become a wonderful ally of Google, NSA & GCHQ, having the capability of gathering vast amounts of covert user information.


  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Without a shadow of a doubt this is blatant product placement by the BBC.

    Glass gets no less than 5 placements on this site and The One Show has just ran a huge section of the programme promoting it, including four presenters presenters wearing the device.

    Google gets free advertising space at our expense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I came to the conclusion several years ago that by the 24th century we'd look probably more like the Borg than Captain Picard and his intrepid crew on board the USS Enterprise. I reckon we're going to march cheerfully down the path that will prove me right with (a) smiles on our faces and (b) weird-looking spectacles telling us which way to turn at the next corner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    With the massive explosion to technological development in the past century is there anyway we can possible predict how devices such as glass will work in their final form? Head's up displays are used in a lot of technology already, the green square over an apache gunships pilots eye, that is familiar to many of us for example. Fundamentally glass is offering a more in-depth and interactive HUD.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    To paraphrase the immortal words of Nick Lowe "... I love the sound of breaking (Google) glass..."

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Are they superior to "Beer Googles"

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    @5; "The point at the moment is to find out what, if anything, it is useful for - experience suggests that trying to predict the future doesn't work too well."

    Right, so you're saying that a company has poured millions into a product, publicised it and are now only getting round to thinking about what it could be used for and who will buy it?

    Plenty of gullible folks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Mankind has foreseen the rise of wearable's right from the earliest Sc-Fi films. The key to its success lies in making itself useful and socially desirable. After all, we've all probably seen in our lifetime, the rise of tech we discounted as "just a fad". Personally,I find Project Glass highly interesting,and although I don't believe this is the final form which will see wearable's reign supreme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Yes just like other Google-philes abroad. Price does not come into it. Someone, somewhere, sometime whilst driving will kill another person while using Google Glasses, hopefully not in the UK. When it happens Google can test their Glasses under law but gain lots of free publicity. Lives do not matter Google Glass will succeed regardless. Everything that distracts vision while driving is dangerous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Someday with the right app it could be just like with smart phones with some folks unable to imagine how they could live their life without it and completely clueless why anyone would not want them around while they're using it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    7. jeffa4444

    1. When you were playing what sort of pointing device etc did you have?

    2. What about those who would prefer to use the other eye?

    3. Can the camera and the 'screen' be operated in a transparent mode (showing what you are looking at)? And is the quality and brightness the same as looking directly at the object?

    There are far too many outstanding questions to make a judgement!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Are we approaching the point of technology for technology sake rather than a real need for a product. I tried Google Glass 6 months ago and found it "strange" and not a natural extention like a smart phone or a life band like the 24+ UP by Jawbone. Ive always embraced new technology but Im just not sure about Google Glass.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I think glass has a role in the medical and professional fields. First responders who need their hands free, certainly could use glass to get information that can help them in their jobs. Persoanl use, not so much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    "But more importantly, what's the point of it in everyday life beyond highlighting you as moronic and someone to avoid?"

    People used to say that about mobile phones, then they said it about smart phones, now they're saying it about this.

    The point at the moment is to find out what, if anything, it is useful for - experience suggests that trying to predict the future doesn't work too well.


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