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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    + one chip in the head; mission accomplished.

    Well I suppose when you've pretty much destroyed the planet, trees, fresh air & oceans, the only place left is your room with your brain controlled by .....

    That is until Earth bangs everyone one of us to rights.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Prince Charles looks awesome in those sci fi glasses. Perfect king portrait image for the 21st century Technology era :) Imagine going to the art gallery to see all the paintings of royals in the past, king henry the eighth, bonny prince Charlie, Elizabeth the first and 2nd and Charles with his stern look and those sci fi glasses :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    This would have been fantastic for locating Sarah Connor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    @58 NotSaying101 - yes, so that they can prove what utter... sorry, how cool they are... LOL!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    CCTV is everywhere already, shops, restaurants and the street. I'm pretty sure that looking up a skirt with a google glass is just as complicated as doing it without them, although it is actually probably easier to do so with a mobile phone or digital camera in your hand than a camera on your face. The device won’t take off primarily because most people have an aversion to wearing glasses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Oh this must be a real dilemma for Apple users - they hate Google so much, but they'll want to have Glass. Boy are they walking a tightrope lol!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Will no doubt be bought by the same "fashion conscious" idiots who just have to have the latest phone ...

    As for the quote, "information when you want it, how you want it, without having to disengage from life". surely to disengage from life is something you pay for at Dignitas not google?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    @53 richard brown.
    Numerous people have pointed out that this device is different to CCTV. To quote @55 Dragonwight : "CCTV . . . doesn't invade your privacy in a restaurant"
    Please richard, acknowledge this difference in future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    These things should be banned and I hope every shop, restaurant, office etc do ban them if this lazy govt don't. Firstly lets deal with the oft quoted argument of there are lots of CCTV already. Well CCTV doesn't look up your wife's or daughters skirt on the tube, it doesn't invade your privacy in a restaurant. Can you imagine what a pedo would do with these?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    The more divorced from reality, the worse it's going to get.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    and to all the naysayers who argue about being filmed and invasion of privacy, may i suggest you look up once in a while to the lamposts and see the huge arrays of CCTV cameras recording your every move

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    @51 jonesa223.
    If you normally wear ordinary glasses, then I believe that you can get lenses attached to the frame so you can use them both as a pair of spectacles and as a mobile computer. Hence the phrase "Google glasses".
    Personally I think they look very nice. Hopefully someone somewhere will release a cheap knock-off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    @50 I only see one peice of glass on the "pair" that Prince Charles is wearing. The frame to keep them on, while from a pair of glasses, does not require there to be glass in them other than on the unit showing information. Also Google themselves call this "Google Glass" it would be wrong to correct google on the name they gave to the product

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    The story keeps on calling these things "Google glass". Typical BBC example of bad editing. That should be "Google glasses" since they are basically a pair of glasses with a computer mounted on one of the arms.
    Come on BBC, please keep up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    "I'd love to have glass but won't. I don't see how $1000 in USA translates to £1000 here in UK.... ripped off as always"

    It's to due to the different tax rates in the UK and USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I bet it doesn't understand Northern.

    I'm neither threatened nor interested by it to be honest. Not for a grand anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    This will have lots of applications:
    Imagine surgeons the world over being able to view a rare procedure being performed.
    Make no mistake this is not a 'technology for everyone' product, but there are areas of life where it will make a huge impact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I'd love to have glass but won't. I don't see how $1000 in USA translates to £1000 here in UK.... ripped off as always

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    It's exciting if somewhat of a novelty. No doubt the technology will be refined over future generations. I look forward to using something similar in years to come.


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