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Glasses no longer the spectacle they were

Just days after Google revealed the closure of the Glass Explorer programme, Tesco triumphantly announced it's the first retailer to release a Glass-enabled app. But in the fast-moving world of wearable tech are they too late, asks Katie Wright

Tesco has launched some new glassware but it's got nothing to do with champagne flutes, or tumblers.

The experimental arm of the supermarket giant, Tesco Lab, has developed a shopping app that's compatible with Google Glass, the high-tech specs that launched in the UK last summer.

Tesco Grocery Glassware, the first from a UK retailer, lets customers browse items on the go and add them to their online shopping basket hands-free, before completing their order on a computer, or mobile.

So, say you finish the last of the milk at breakfast, you can use voice commands to pop another pint in your virtual basket ready to be delivered when you get home from work.

But, just days after Tesco's announcement, Google revealed it's closing Glass Explorer - the roll-out programme which offered consumers a £1,000 beta version of the wearable tech - to focus on 'future versions of Glass', according to a post on Google Plus. Which sounds promising, but experts say the closure spells the end for the pioneering headset.

Initially greeted with a fanfare in the media, Glass suffered low uptake in real life because of the antisocial implications of having a video recording device constantly attached to one's head - users possibly didn't want to risk being labelled 'glassholes' by disgruntled members of the public. Is Tesco's unveiling just badly timed, then, or is it an outright mistake?

Paul Lamkin, editor in chief of Wareable.com, is unequivocal, calling it "about the most pointless use of Glass we've heard of yet".

Tesco points out, however, that the grocery app isn't meant to revolutionise shopping.

"We don't envisage Glass becoming the new platform for shopping, as its functionality is different, and more immediate," says Pablo Coberly, innovation engineer at Tesco Labs.

"Instead, it complements other devices and integrates shopping into everyday life."

So far, Tesco has kept schtum since the Glass-shattering announcement, but it's unlikely the news was greeted with joy in the Tesco Lab - especially given the beleaguered retailer's recent decision to close 43 loss-making stores in the wake of falling sales.

It remains to be seen whether the Grocery Glassware proves popular enough to be worthwhile.

In future, the retail giant may be wise to stick to the type of glassware meant for dining tables - not tablets.

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