Monday, April 14, 2014
Has Google Glass made wearable tech sexy at last?


Google is opening up its Glass ‘Explorer’ testing programme for one day tomorrow, inviting US citizens only to buy a set for $1,500. You know what? I wish they’d do that in the UK as when it launches over there it’s going to change our view of wearable technology.

We can't order a pair tomorrow, but we can surf the menu of frames and lenses on the Google Glass site. So far, getting hold of a pair of the internet-enabled glasses has been difficult in the UK. You can pick them up from eBay but you’re never guaranteed they’ll be legitimate and Google is unlikely to help you if anything goes wrong.

Google Glass has its critics. People wearing them have already been nicknamed ‘glassholes’, probably because they’re distracted by the information beaming into their right eye until the moment they decide to film you using the eyepiece’s built-in camera (at which point they freeze and stare right at you).

Travel search engine company Skyscanner ran an event last week showing off all the tech that’s going to change our view of holidays in the next ten years. I was brave enough to push to the front and try out both Google Glass and Facebook’s virtual reality glasses Oculus Rift.

My verdict? Oculus Rift – which Facebook bought out-of-the-blue for $2bn last month – was a huge disappointment. It was not much better than the virtual reality game I played on a school trip to London in 1991. You also have what looks like a small television strapped to your head. Not sexy.

But Google Glass was a totally different story. The headset, made of titanium and glass, was gorgeous. The voice activation (you say “OK Glass…” and then tell it what to do, such as “take a photo”) was flawless, probably because parts of the microphone touch your skull so, unlike Apple’s Siri, it can actually hear you.

The display was the best bit: pin-sharp, with green words projected on a screen a few millimetres from your eye that look like they’re floating in the air much further away from your face. Walking around the room I did act fall four of acting like a glasshole for a moment, as someone tried to have a conversation with me but I was too distracted by the screen to notice, so they just got my blank, far-away look.

Once it arrives in the UK I predict Glass will sell out fast. Some companies over here are already trialling Google Glass, but mainly done as a PR stunt in the style of Virgin Atlantic’s Glass-powered hostesses. As soon as you try it, however, you’ll understand how it’s a genuine step forward from the smartphone screen. It's also small, light and pretty enough to be verging on a fashion accessory.

We should reserve judgement until we’re officially invited to be Explorers, and once we’re wearing Glass I predict we’ll never look back.