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Smart glasses are wearable devices (head-mounted displays HMDs) that add useful functionalities and information alongside what the wearer would normally gather from the real world.
As times change, the way we interact with technology also changes. From rotary dial telephones to the era of smart watches and now smart glasses, there has been tremendous progress in optimizing technology for convenience.
With the evolution of the Metaverse, smart glasses are poised to be among next big technologies to develop. But first: what are smart glasses?
For centuries, the primary purpose of eyeglasses was to correct, restore and improve vision to 20/20 or close to it. Smart glasses introduce another leap in convenience by offering the capability to bring the technology in our smartphones and computers directly to our eyes and ears.
The devices, worn like regular glasses, allow you to view and respond to your smartphone for calls, messages, emails, listening to music, using navigation, talking to a voice assistant and much more.
Google introduced the first smart glasses with Google Glass in 2013, in line with the movement towards the Internet of Things (IoT). Although Google Glass is considered a commercial failure, it opened the world to the potential of smart glasses.
Today, countless eyeglass makers and internet pioneers are joining forces to innovate and grow the field. Just as we cannot imagine living without a smartphone and a laptop today, smart glasses might move from being a nice-to-have accessory to a versatile tool for everyday use.
In this article, we will take a deep dive into the best smart glasses available today, types of smart glasses and how they work, current uses and future applications of smart glasses, and the challenges facing the adoption of smart glasses. We will also answer frequently asked questions regarding smart glasses.
Best Smart Glasses Available
- Ray-Ban Stories. Developed in conjunction with Facebook, these smart glasses feature the classic RayBan design and do a good job with both video and audio. They are available on Amazon for $299.
- Vuzix Blade Upgraded. The latest version of Vuzix Blade offers lots of advanced features in a sleek, compact design. It’s particularly impressive for its AR features. It is available on Amazon for check price.
- Bose Frames. This is an impressive entry in that combines sunglasses and headphones. They are widely regarded as the best solution for audio needs. It also has some AR features and is available at Walmart for $199.
- Snap Spectacles 3. This uniquely designed pair of smart glasses made by Snapchat are fun and fashionable. Their 3D photography capability and HD cameras make them a popular option for video needs. They are available on Amazon for $345.
- Smith Lowdown Focus. The premise behind these smart glasses is that they help you relax and focus. Their comfortable frames and headphones pair with an intuitive app design that uses your brain activity level and breath to help retain your mind, slow it down, and improve concentration. They are available on Amazon for check price.
- Techken Sunglasses. Probably the most budget-friendly options available on the market, these futuristic-looking sunglasses offer impressive capabilities. They are Bluetooth compatible, have built-in earbuds, and feature a microphone for making calls. You can get them at Amazon for as low as $16.
- Jlab Audio JBuds Frames. If you already have your favorite pair of sunglasses or prescription frames, you can easily attach the JBuds to them for instant wireless sound. They also have a microphone for calls and are available on the Jlab website for $49.
Types of Smart Glasses
Below are the various types of smart glasses available in the industry.
- Monocular Smart Glasses. These are head-mounted displays (HMDs) that consist of an optical engine positioned on one of the lenses. Although the augmented information is located outside of your line of sight, it is like having a see-through smartphone. Common examples include; Google Glass, Lumus Sleek, Optivent’s Ora-2, and Vuzix M300.
- Binocular Smart Glasses. They consist of two transparent displays with an optical engine in front of each eye that gives users stereoscopic vision. The information is displayed just out of the line of sight on both eyes. Common examples include; Epson Moverio, SONY SED-E1, and ODG R-9.
- Audio Augmented Reality Smart Glasses. Although augmented reality is typically associated with visuals, these glasses utilize sound-based AR. They combine information collected from attached motion sensors and phone GPS and can pipe sound directly to the user’s ears. The best example is the Bose Frames.
- Immersive or Mixed Reality Smart Glasses. These devices are fully immersive and consist of stand-alone systems that allow you to render 3D objects on board. They come with 3D sensors that make sense of your surroundings and accurately overlay computer-generated objects naturally. Examples include Microsoft HoloLens and ODG-9 smart glasses.
- Mixed Reality Photo Projection Action. While other types of smart glasses use a screen placed at a fixed distance from the eye, this type aims to project photons directly into the user’s eyes. This will fix a common drawback of existing AR smart glasses by giving users an enlarged field of view. Magic Leap are the leading brand on this technology.
What Do Smart Glasses Do?
Different smart glasses accomplish different tasks depending on the manufacturer. However, generally, smart glasses aim to provide life monitoring services, as well as provide a means for taking more authentic photos and video clips. They can also be equipped with augmented reality technology, intended to assist you with your everyday home and business life. Expectedly, different models incorporate different technologies depending on the critical focus on the device. You will find models with a different number of cameras, wireless connectivity modules, GPS sensors, microphones, speakers, buttons, etc.
How Do Smart Glasses Work?
Smart glasses work through a combination of display, sensors, and accelerometers, coupled with internet connectivity and smart software. Users have different ways of communicating with the device depending on the model, including touching, tapping, swiping, or voicing requests/commands. The controls can be embedded into the glasses themselves or incorporated into a handset – or both. Some pioneering alternatives can recognize gestures, including head, eye, and hand movements to activate the device.
History of Smart Glasses
The history of smart glasses can be told through the countless prototypes and production units of smart glasses that emerged over the years. And the beginning may surprise you.
In 1967, computer scientist Ivan Sutherland created the Sword of Damocles with his students. Although rudimentary in its form and function, the device is widely regarded as the first-ever virtual reality head-mounted display.
From the 1980s through the 1990s, a Canadian researcher developed his WearCamp (wearable computer) solution that gave rise to the computerized smart glasses we see today.
The first-ever attempt at a widespread consumer product in smart glasses came in 2013 with Google’s Smart Glass. Although the product did not achieve the success Google hoped for, it gave companies the confidence to work on more easily adoptable types of smart glasses.
Current Use of Smart Glasses
Smart glasses can do a variety of things, including:
- Send and answer messages
- Make and receive phone calls
- Take photos and videos from your point of view
- Turn by turn GPS navigation
- Manage your calendar/appointments, including pop-up reminders
- Interact with common apps such as fitness, search, Uber, music, audiobooks, podcasts, etc.
They also have endless use for enterprises, including:
- Providing real-time information about inventory/orders to warehouse workers while still having their hands and feet free.
- Display real-time assembly instruction to the employees of building and manufacturing companies.
- Record and document client/customer information and interaction in real-time and access information from previous visits to professionals such as doctors, lawyers, etc.
Future of Smart Glasses: Applications, Trends and Technology
The current functionality of smart glasses is convincing more and more forward-thinking businesses and consumers to hop on board. Although widespread public adoption is still lacking, the glasses found environments where their functionality and value allow them to operate, develop and grow.
The future looks promising for smart glasses with the continued fine-tuning of the technology. Tech giants like Facebook, Apple and Samsung lead the charge toward widespread adoption and integration of smart glasses into everyday life.
Imagine being able to quickly access and update information on an eyewear database. This would allow a hands-free workforce with instant collaborated knowledge in their field of view as and when they need it.
The value of this functionality impacts quality control, service delivery, management, training, remote collaboration and consumer data collection, just to name a few areas of impact.
Despite the potential advances in the technology and products, potential drawbacks have yet to be examined closely. Such as:
- How do behaviors change when someone wears smart glasses for long periods?
- How will wearing smart glasses impact one’s vision in the short-, medium- and long-term?
- Is there a difference in eye health when wearing smart glasses during the day vs. at night?
Challenges and Issues Related to Smart Glasses
Some of the challenges smart glasses providers must overcome include:
- Components that push the boundaries. The hardware and software requirements for meeting the desired capabilities are a challenge. Developing fast, small, lightweight and highly power-efficient processors that can fit in seamless and comfortable frames remains a key challenge. Other concerns include cameras that account for tilting and head movement, battery life and eye-tracking capabilities.
- Network security and bandwidth. Providing seamless AR experiences based on cloud-hosted services and content requires uninterrupted Wi-Fi availability and high-security standards which is still a challenge.
- Overall user experience. Manufacturers are still trying to develop a standard on how to best interact with displayed content naturally. This has led to the continued iteration of controls and frame design.
- Safety, privacy and regulations. Smart glasses present and face numerous new and unresolved safety challenges. Some concerns such as obstructed peripheral vision, the safety of the devices in dynamic environments, the possibility of recording others without consent, and other such concerns still need to be addressed.
- Education. Eyeglasses must continue to serve their purpose, which is to correct and protect vision. In this regard, the public will need to learn how to operate these new tools and adapt to the influx of wireless data.
- Fashion. Appearance was a significant hurdle for geeky-looking Google Glass. Smart glasses of the future need to be sleek and stylish.
What will smart glasses do?
Smart glasses can provide information on demand by networking with other instruments or computers. The information can increase the convenience of users and optimize operations for businesses. The user can communicate with the device using voice, manual buttons, direct touch or gestures.
How much do smart glasses cost?
The cost of smart glasses differs from brand to brand and from model to model. The newer the features and functionality, the higher the price.
The most popular smart glasses at the moment, Ray-Ban Stories, are available on Amazon for $299. But you can get more affordable options such as Techken Sunglasses which are available on Amazon for as low as $16.
What are the best smart glasses?
It depends. Users have all different needs and preferences. As an industry that is still evolving, most manufacturers are specializing in different features and making a name in that function. Therefore, the best smart glasses are those that meet your unique needs from AR features, audio, video, price, etc.
Why Google Glass Broke. (February 2015). The New York Times.
Smart glass using Internet of Things. (May 2020). International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (IRJET).
The Sword of Damocles: Early head-mounted display. (June 2010). Computer History Museum.
Last Updated April 7, 2022
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