Virtual meetings as councillors get Google Glass technology
Croydon councillors are to be kitted out with high-tech Google Glass gadgets to enable them take part in town hall meetings from the comfort of their own homes.
Each of the borough's 70 councillors will receive one of the £900 devices - wearable augmented-reality glasses with a built-in display and camera - when they are released in the autumn.
The technology has already been trialled by councillors during private meetings using pre-release prototypes supplied by Google, and was deemed such a success that it will now be rolled out for all public meetings, including full council, cabinet and committees.
Councillors will see a lifelike projection of the council chamber on their screens and will also be equipped with a headset to enable them to speak to and hear each other.
Croydon Council said the technology would save councillors many hours of travel time and could free up the town hall for other uses, with a new Oceana nightclub one option on the table.
The gadgets will also mean councillors can search in real time for statistics and information to answer questions, which members of the public will be able to submit through a dedicated chatroom as they live-stream meetings.
Lindsey Kidder, the council's director of technology and innovation, said: "As a local authority we are committed to finding new, more efficient ways of working and we believe we are the first council to employ this forward-thinking and progressive technology.
"These state-of-the-art gadgets will mean our hard-working councillors together save thousands of hours a year travelling to and from meetings, which will also have obvious benefits for the environment.
"What's more, thanks to a lucrative sponsorshop deal with Google - the world's favourite search engine - this wonderful technology, priced very reasonably at £899 at available in all good computer shops from September, will provided to us at no cost to the taxpayer."
But Jonathan Righteous, spokesman for the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "It beggars belief that during a time of austerity councillors are to benefit from the latest, shiniest state-of-the-art technology while many ordinary people are still stuck using outdated, bug-prone gadgets such as the iPhone 4.
"What's more, all taxpayers' should have the right to express their discontent with expensive council policies through the medium of shouting from the public gallery. It concerns me greatly members of the public will instead be forced to convey their anger through merely typing in block capitals, which is not half as satisfying."
Callum Ithical, editor of technology magazine Futurenow, described the scheme as "the first of its kind" but warned users of Google Glass had been known to suffer from short attention spans.
He said: "I would question whether councillors' minds will be able to remain focussed on, for example, planning committee meetings when they're sat in their living room with a nice glass of scotch and Coronation Street is on."
Croydon Council unveiled the plans today, April 1.
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