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.
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.
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.
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 monocular Smart Glass product and with thin, see through lens technology ready to deploy in normal looking consumer eyeglasses formats.
At CES 2014 they were showing Industrial Applications on the M100s developed by industrial partners and VAR’s.
They were also showing patented Waveguide lenses which will be used in their consumer Smart Glasses. Hopefully we will see these as products at CES2015 :-)
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.
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 10+ years ago takes us right into a new era of Smart Glasses and Augmented Reality. Thank you Google for bringing this onto the radar screens of the potential user sectors. The Technology is now available and in the hands of developers!
Market researchers ABI predict that 2 million Smart Glasses type devices will be sold this year (2014). This seems a bit optimistic, but with Vuzix M100 commercially available now and Google Glass and Epson coming into general commercial availability in the next months it's at least a possibility from the supply side of the equation. This has never been the case before.
The next chapters in this story will be very interesting ones!
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 I might get a better idea at that.
Sony showed a new HMD and it seemed to have all the bells and whistles, and must be considered a contender for many reasons. Not always easy to tell if this is a serious business initiative or an attention getter. As an attention getter it was a success for them at CES!
The one that gets the prize for bulky is the Oculus Rift. Every time I try one of these on I am amazed by the quality, but soon start feeling strange and have to take it off. I have yet to see anyone using these that wasn't holding on for dear life with two hands! The latest prototype that they showed that apparently do head tracking better (with an external camera) is even bigger.
everyone is excited, but it all reminds me of the 1990's! They seem to have gotten enough funding to get this right though.
Basically, if there is really a huge market for these they are on the right track, but unless they can connect with smartphones and do immersive 3D VR games I'm just not sure. They can of course do this for the video, but the head tracking and control channels are not yet standardised for this to happen soon. Come on Apple, get your API's in shape!
While strolling through the Gold Pavilion at CES I ran into this company called BarcodEye. They are writing Android Applications for the Vuzix M100 Smart glasses. This App simply takes to your line of sight the information associated with a barcode, QR code, etc. that the M100 camera picks up in your direction of glance.
Simple, but very effective way to read barcodes by just looking at them. Many applications which require hands to be free to do other tasks will benefit from these types of applications plugins. Since the M100 runs Android these can be easily adapted from Smartphone Apps or written from scratch.