Google Glass is expanding outside the U.S. for the first time. The devices are now available in the UK and have undergone a few changes them more convenient for British users.
The UK version of Google Glass will give information in metric units, and have a few new UK-specific apps such as one from The Guardian. Glass also had to be programmed to understand British English. Although humans can understand a word like "computer" pronounced with either accent, a computer registers them as two very different sounds. The UK dialect also has many words used differently from American English. For example, telling Google Glass to find the nearest underground would likely be a common command in the UK that wouldn't make any sense to a program geared toward American English.
Google Glass is currently only being released through a relatively small testing program. Around 6,000 people have purchased the device in the U.S. Part of that is due to the product's high price tag. In the UK, Google Glass will sell for £1,000, the equivalent of about $1,700, or $200 more than the U.S. price. Selling Glass at such a high price allows technophiles and those in the technology industry to experiment with the device without attracting too much interest to a product that isn't yet ready for widespread distribution. Once the complete version is launched, Google hopes to bring the price down closer to that of an average smartphone.
"It's an extraordinarily complicated product, it's a new category that we are inventing, not just a new product," Ivy Ross, who leads the Google Glass project, told BBC News. "Until we feel comfortable we have a product that will serve the wider public we are going to continue to innovate and learn."
Google Glass is facing two other large obstacles to more widespread adoption. The product's looks are one. Wearing a small computer screen in front of your eye is bound to look a bit odd, although Google is partnering with several fashion designers to improve the look of the product. Glass has also been the target complaints regarding its ability to record video or take pictures. There have been a number of incidents where businesses or people have asked wearers to leave the area. On rare occasions, those wearing Google Glass have even been the target of violence, either from criminals who wanted to steal the expensive piece of technology, or from angry citizen who feared they were being recorded.
Privacy has been a major talking point surrounding the new technology, with opponents of Glass claiming that the devices ability surreptitiously record video infringes upon privacy rights. Google is quick to point out that an outside observer can see when the screen is on, and that the device is far more obtrusive than many other wearable surveillance options found in ordinary objects like pins and hats.
Whether or not UK consumers will be interested in Google Glass remains to be seen, but the release is a definitive step forward for the product. Glass is available for purchase by UK residents over the age of 18 as of Monday, and will be featured at the London Dema Days event beginning June 27.