Smart Glasses are the hottest new buzz in the technology world. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are fields which have been greatly anticipated since the earliest Golden Age of science fiction, and recent technology has started to pay off on the long-standing expectations of consumers. Even lacking true AR capabilities, simple glasses that put a Heads-Up Display (HUD) in the wearer’s vision have some promise as an intermediate step in wearable technology.
Google Glass might have had a bumpy roll-out as the market innovator, but now that several competitors have entered the campaign, the promise of AR glasses technology has picked up considerable steam. Here are a few upcoming milestones in the race to market-viable Smart Glass technology.
Amazon Echo Frames
The Amazon Echo Frames and Echo Loop (an accompanying wearable finger ring) are an experimental product launch by Amazon. They are made to work with the existing Amazon Alexa, being a way to take Alexa on the go. They have a 14-hour battery charge, touch controls on the rims, and a Bluetooth connection to your phone. They can be used to do things like control Smart Home settings or interact with message alerts on your phone. While they are far from a true AR device, having no built-in camera nor Visual Positioning System (VPS) capabilities, they are practical as lightweight glasses with a modest bit of technology and a few simple applications.
These have already been launched in a limited market. They are another modest offering in the technology, with some simple graphics printing on the lens to track stats rather than a true AR experience. They are integrated with Google Fit, Google Slides, and several other smartphone apps, allowing simple streaming data to display in a holographic projection on the lens that only the wearer can see. While they’re a bit underwhelming for those expecting an Oculus-level experience, they are a hands-free way to view a calendar or play a few tunes off Spotify.
In typical Apple fashion, only the smallest hints and leaks at this developing product have come out during the company’s typical product announcements. There have been a few files included in new versions of iOS that suggest integration with a glasses device. Apple owns several patents related to AR glasses technology. Apple has also been sweeping up several companies related to AR technology, such as high-density video displays, eye-tracking methods, and AR software startups. In keeping with the typical Apple process of secretive development behind the scenes until a big surprise announcement, an Apple AR product emerging soon would be a typical move.
Magic Leap is a true AR glasses product, although they’re leaning more towards a VR headset than true Smart Glasses. So far, Magic Leap has released what is mainly a hardware kit aimed at developers and gadget tinkerers. Recently the company has announced “Concepts,” a set of AR apps and a publishing market-place for developers to offer software apps to work with the device. The Magic Leap isn’t quite at the level of fully integrated graphics with VPS technology, so for now virtual displays hover in the air before the user, letting them do minor tasks like pick stock quotes or view a fancier weather forecast. The graphics do look colorful and sharp, so this space is worth watching for further development.
Windows Mixed Reality
Finally, the true technology giant of Redmond has continued to tease incremental progress with products such as the Microsoft HoloLens, which is integrated with new Windows operating system versions. Right now, the project is leaning more towards an Oculus Rift competitor as a virtual reality headset, rather than Smart Glasses AR. If anything, exploring the Windows Mixed Reality Hub, which is like a house-sized desktop with objects you can activate, feels more like a 3D realized version of the old Microsoft Bob attempt of the 1990s.