Tech fans in the UK who've been casting envious eyes across the Atlantic can finally rejoice this week. That's because tech giant Google has finally made its Glass wearable computer available to consumers in the UK, with the device now available to purchase.
Though initially targeted at developers rather than casual users, anyone who wants to experience the tech for themselves can now do so – provided they're over 18 and can meet the £1,000 price tag. So if you have ideas about walking around the street with a heads-up display like a fighter pilot (or a Terminator), now's your chance.
At the heart of Google Glass is the tiny 640 x 360 resolution transparent screen that sits in front of a user's eyes. You might not think it can do much from the outside, but when worn it provides the equivalent of a 25-inch display being viewed from eight feet away. This means it's easy to pop up augmented reality features such as directions or read your email and social media updates.
The other big feature is the 720p camera mounted to the side of the device, which can record video to give a first-person perspective on your world to share with your friends. This is the element of the eyewear that's proven most controversial though, with some privacy campaigners raising concerns about people being filmed when out and about without their knowledge.
Elsewhere, the device offers 16GB of flash memory to store and voice-activated controls that let you operate the device hand-free. If you don't fancy talking to your computer in public, there's also a touchpad built into the frame that lets you swipe through various options.
When it was first unveiled in the US, most of the attention wasn't focused what you could do with the tech, but rather what it looked like. And sadly, the first versions of Google Glass fell a little short in this area, with its clunky lensless frames coming in for much ridicule.
But this is an area Google's been working hard to change – and something that'll be essential if wearable technology is ever going to be more than a novelty. So UK users can now choose from a range of different frame styles and sunglasses options.
Google also announced earlier this year that it's partnering with sunglasses maker Luxottica – owner of famous brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley – to come up with new, stylish designs for Glass.
Out and about
So what will you be able to do with your shiny new Google Glass once you've wearing the screen? UK users can, for example, use it to get around, with a video made by Google to promote the launch showing a cyclist getting directions and checking his pace through the heads-up display.
Other videos produced by the company show users snapping pictures, keeping up to date with the latest travel information and finding the nearest decent takeaway.
Ivy Ross, Head of Glass at the firm, explained: "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."
What can't I do?
With the technology coming to the UK for the first time, a number of organisations have been forced to make up new policies to make it clear about what is and isn't acceptable behaviour for Glass users. The BBC reports, for instance, that Google has held talks with the Department prior to the launch, after it raised concerns that the device would be a distraction to drivers.
A spokesman for the government department said there are no plans to change laws that currently make it illegal to view a screen whilst driving unless it is displaying information – though he added: "Google is anxious its products do not pose a road safety risk and is currently considering options to allow the technology to be used in accordance with the law."
Elsewhere, cinema chain Vue has confirmed it will require patrons to remove the eyewear at the beginning of screenings, whilst coffee chain Starbucks says it will "politely ask" customers to refrain from filming its staff.
However, some firms are taking a more relaxed attitude, with British Airways saying its passengers could wear Glass at any time on board its aircraft, as long as they put it in flight safety mode when necessary. Meanwhile, Tesco has already developed a concept Glass app that can be used in its stores.