Google Glass has launched in the UK -- but it will cost you.
The search giant announced that its wearable computer's 'Explorer' edition, which is aimed primarily at developers and 'creatives', would be available in the UK from Tuesday 24 June.
Under the 'beta'-style programme anyone over the age of 18 can purchase a Google Glass Explorer kit for £1,000.
Google Glass was first launched to US 'Explorers' in 2012, and has since proved as popular among devotees as it has controversial among critics. Just last month the project was extended to normal consumers in the US for the first time, having previously only been available to developers who wanted to experiment with the head gear while creating software for it.
The device is essentially a high-tech headset, which places a small (transparent) screen in front of the eye. With built in voice recognition you're able to use Glass to check email and browse the web, see Google Now alerts, take pictures and use dozens of other custom apps.
Joining the Explorer programme gets you a Glass device and access to developer tools, as well as the 60+ apps available in the 'Glassware' app store.
Google said that Glass "is still a prototype and will continue to be developed before it is made available to more consumers". The high price of the device reflects the fact that Glass is not intended to be a straight consumer-level product, and it is expected the cost will come down if and when it is released commercially.
Ivy Ross, Head of Glass said in a statement:
“Technology is at its best when it fits seamlessly into our lives and lets us get on with whatever we’re doing. Our goal for Glass is exactly that - to make it easier to bring people the technology they rely on without drawing them out of the moment.“
Google also announced four new 'Glassware' apps aimed at the UK market. They are:
- StarChart -- Star Chart lets you explore the wonders of our universe. Simply look up at the sky to discover the stars, planets and constellations above you.
- Guardian --Stay up to date with award-winning journalism from the Guardian. Get regular packages of stories and breaking news alerts and quickly save the articles that you want to read later.
- Goal.com -- No matter where you are, you can always keep up with everything happening in the world of Football!
- Zombies Run -- Zombies, Run! is a running game and audio adventure, co-created with award-winning novelist Naomi Alderman. We deliver the story straight to your headphones through orders and voice recordings - and when you get back home, you use the supplies you’ve collected while running to build and grow your base.
Glass is a result of the company's mysterious Google X lab, where staff are encouraged to use "moonshot thinking" in order to create new products. Other items to come from the lab include smart contact lens that can monitor insulin in the tear ducts, and the self-driving car that is currently being tested.
Several major companies have already been testing Glass, with airline Virgin Atlantic using the device with their upper class passengers; deploying the device to manage flight details and organise transfers.
Wearable technology is becoming a growing trend in the consumer market, with smartphone giant Samsung having launched two smartwatches this year alone. While rumours of iPhone maker Apple releasing an iWatch refuse to go away.
As part of the process of making Glass more appealing to consumers, new frames by fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg have now also been made available.
What remains an open question though is whether the UK is ready for Glass (if it's even aware of it) - and what the legal and privacy implications might be.
For its part, Google tells early adopters of Glass to be mindful of where and how they use it, and to apply the same standards of thought and care as they would using a smartphone or taking pictures with a standard camera in public.
But in the States 72% of Americans said in one poll they are concerned about the privacy concerns of a device like Glass.
David Cook, data security solicitor at Pannone, part of Slater and Gordon in Manchester, recently told the Guardian: "It is difficult to foresee how Google will ensure that the product will comply with the legislation in advance of its release date.
"However, given the history of Google, I do fear that the product will simply be launched in a non-compliant state and that Google will try to negotiate its position with European regulators after the event."
According to a recent UK poll 47% of UK respondents had privacy concerns about Glass, and 20% supported an outright ban.
Jeremy Thompson, CEO of Gorkana Group (who conducted the survey), said:
"The data clearly shows that Google Glass has a long way to go to in gaining wide appeal in the UK, More concerning for wearable devices such as this is that of those that do know the product well, a significant majority have concerns about privacy, which certainly suggests that education about the product is going to be as important as the technology features."