Smart Glasses

Thanks to Pete Wassell at Augmate and contributions from the companies who are the real veterans in head mounted displays, there was a very nice and informative showcase at the entrance to the Eureka Park in the Venetian. I have personally been monitoring this sector for 15 years so this was a bit of a nostalgic experience for me. I was involved in the very early days with Reflection Technology who broke early ground. Then Microvision launched their Nomad product which sported a Virtual Retinal Display and in cooperation with Metaio, sold this into the automobile industry as a repair mechanic's aid. If you think Google Glass is a breakthrough product you only have to look at what Vuzix (called Icuity then) and MicroOptical (myvu) launched in the late 1990's to see that this headworn display technology has been around for a while from these early innovators. The difference from then to now is that the belt or backpack worn PC that drove this is now completely headworn and in the case of the M100 from Vuzix, is a complete open platform Android OS device, so the Applications software can come from several sectors in parallel. So the Journey from HMD's of…
Google was not really showing anything at CES 2014, but there were plenty of people wearing Glass! Glass got mixed reviews when I asked some of them their opinion and what they were using it for at CES. Most were not really using, just wearing! One young girl told me she was doing a study for University on reactions from the public about people wearing Google Glass in public! Another at a bus stop proudly wearing, but intensely working using his Smartphone. Thank you Google for kicking off the awareness campaign, but the good news is there are both ready to deploy products and amazing new technologies to fuel a value driven range of business opportunities. In some way I suspect Google welcomes all entries who can deliver this enabling technology as we all know that they just want to get closer to our eyeballs to support their real strategy.
One of the first commercially available of the Smart Glasses is from Vuzix who is specifically targeting the professional, industrial and prosumer sectors with this product. Also seen from Vuzix at Showstoppers and on the CES exhibition floor was their next generation lens technology which could be the beginning of consumer appropriate see-through Smart Glasses. These enabling technologies will only take hold if a large number of valuable industrial and eventually consumer applications become available. A wearable camera and near eye display coupled to context awareness enabling sensors, plus an open Android Applications platform able to store or connect to relevant information is a killer combination for enabling a wide range of valuable professional and industrial use cases. There is a ready market for this device. Desk-less, hands-free work environments are the killer sectors. Making this unobtrusive, fashionable and even undetectable is the key to wide spread consumer use, simply because the value propositions already exist and are a high value subset of what smartphones are taken out and used for now, but will extend well beyond that when the consumer friendly, wearable technology becomes available. Vuzix is breaking important new ground in both areas with their commercially available M100…
Epson brought to CES 2014 their next generation product with several industrial and professional applications examples being shown by partners and software developers on their booth. Like Vuzix, their open OS for development is Android, so existing platforms and applications can be run directly with only slight modification. Their Smart Glasses do this via a separate tethered control box and battery, so not as totally self contained and wearable as the M100, but in the industrial applications they are addressing, this is probably acceptable. The important aspect to note is that in both the Vuzix and Epson cases, SDK and APIs that enable a standard Android OS are the core offering. Expect a proliferation of Apps to appear based on valuable use cases. Very encouraging again to see not just technology, but valuable applications such as medical, maintenance, gaming, etc. with fairly simple to use UI’s On show from this company.
LUMUS has been working on core display technology for some time now and year on year, seems to produce better, brighter displays and this year at CES didn’t disappoint. The display is rich in colour yet lens is reasonably see through. LUMUS is producing the lens technology and as far as I could tell, not yet a full packaged product with OS, SDK, sensors, applications, etc. They state that a one-eye solution is most viable and are targeting military and high end industrial manufacturers and VARS to produce the final product. Shown are their prototype implementation of the display technology, and monocular packaging. Probably not a product for broad applications for a while, but the display technology did catch my eye.
Very encouraging advances on show at CES 2014 from three further candidate Smart Glasses display technologies.   GlassUp – Projection on coated lens, currently Monochrome   Optinvent – Another approach to see-through lenses that has lots of promise.   Innovega iOptik – Uses special contact lenses to produce very wide FoV see-through experience and potential to address some near eye focus challenges.   As with Lumus, these are display technologies with potential, but not full featured applications development platforms like Google Glass, Vuzix M100 and Epson BT200.
Virtual Reality, 3D, head tracking and HD video are coming now in smaller packages which are much more wearable. Whether laying back just watching a movie or especially when jumping around  playing an action packed video game this is good news. The latest from Vuzix builds on many years of experience and delivers a comfortable large screen experience (stated by them as 55° FoV) and has head tracking, 720HD, 3D and compatibility with a large portfolio of games as with earlier models. Existing products (1200 series) available now, but the V720 coming in second half. I saw and tried the Avegant Glyph at the press only Pepcom event. Reasonably nice unit, comfortable and the screen experience was okay, but couldn't focus my left eye so couldn't get the binocular image together. They said this was a problem with the prototype, but can't give this high marks without seeing the optics working properly. At this point it appears to be video viewing eyewear and not a VR games platform. Didn't get a clear idea of availability and what their initial products will be, but definitely one to watch. They are having a Show 'n Tell session in London next month, so…
Those who feel a bit self conscious wearing a GoPro on their helmet or hat, especially when on the street, might be interested in glasses that have somewhat concealed cameras on board. These have been in the Spy Tech category in the past. But given that a high percentage of the demos by the Google folks of Glass and some of the emerging applications for Smart Glasses (such as real estate agents creating a house tour) seem to be mostly about video capture, it was interesting to see so many camera glasses at CES. Most of these have simple button controls and autonomously store quite a lot of video or still images to be downloaded via USB or SD card. Of note in this category of Smart Glasses are these four shown - Epiphany, XOEye, Orcam and Liquid Image plus one company who I couldn't find at CES, but reviewed recently - Nemesis (product SunnyCam). Each one has features that differentiate (e.g. Liquid Image for SCUBA divers!) but are fundamentally concealed cameras that you wear on your face.

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