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 31.

    No way! If anyone approaches or is within my vicinity wearing one of these privacy infringing abominations, I shall accidentally knock them off the person and accidentally step on them So beware potential privacy infringers... insure the abomination!

  • 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 33.

    This device will create a world based on prejudice, Imagine glass running facial recognition software in real time and displaying information about everyone including; financial, social, fitness, age, employment, type of job, criminal convictions and so on. Look out if your digital quantified self is less than perfect. Check out www.stopthecyborgs

  • 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 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.


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