As it tries to get its finances in order, Tesco (NASDAQ:TESO) has announced the launch of its Google Glass (NASDAQ:GOOG) shopping app, which has been in the works since June 2014.
Tesco Labs describes its Glass experience as a more basic version of the Grocery app already available on mobile devices. Users can browse products, look up nutritional information and add items to their online basket with some verbal commands and taps on their Glass eyewear, though in-store customers would still need to pay using the mobile app.
"Immediately, we thought about how our colleagues might be able to use Glass to check stock hands-free, or how our customers might be able to add a product to their grocery delivery basket while making a cup of tea," Pablo Coberly, innovation engineer at Tesco Labs wrote in a blog post announcing work on the app back in June. "Getting to that stage has been a journey into entirely new areas of user interaction: new gestures, user interface elements, and input mechanisms."
The new app will surely add some slight convenience to the shopping experience for Tesco shoppers who own a Google Glass device when they find themselves needing to add a last-minute product to the shopping list and don't have a tablet or smartphone handy. But those users are a niche audience, as Glass's prohibitive price tag and general social awkwardness mean the wearables haven't exactly flown off shelves.
Tesco's announcement also had the misfortune of coinciding with Google's announcement that it is tabling the Glass Explorer program for now. As of Jan. 19, Google was no longer selling Google Glass in its current form. That doesn't mean that Glass is gone for good, though. The Explorer program was initially an invitation-only beta test that was eventually opened to anyone willing to spend $1,500 on one of the devices. Google has said it will continue to support Glass and has plans for future versions of the wearable, but its current incarnation, and the one Tesco's app is designed for, is essentially dead in the water.
Coberly's comments suggest that Tesco views this launch as an experiment, though, and with broad acceptance of wearables still five to 10 years down the road, that's still very much how it should be approached. The retailer's labs can continue to become more comfortable with the new touch points and interactions a device like Glass introduces, and they can track how customers react to the system and how relevant it continues to be as the Internet of Things enters the mainstream.
It's also the kind of experimentation that large retailers will increasingly need to be willing to risk if they want to remain competitive. Tesco announced a £263 million miscalculation in its profits last year, which has led to the retailer shutting down its head office along with 43 stores in an attempt to save £250 million a year.
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