DoCoMo had a very effective demo of face recognition at their booth. They were showing how headworn Smart Glasses with both camera and display on board can see, analyse and then display to the user info about the person being looked at. Leads to all kind of questions about privacy, etc. But the state of the technology is well demonstrated by this demo.
It illustrated well the art of the possible in terms of image recognition and the resulting display of relevant information which has many applications and in professional and industrial terms, would be quite empowering especially in situations where the user needs access to info about what he is looking at and needs to operate in a handsfree mode.
The demo was shown using Google Glass which is still in developer only mode ("Explorers") and commercially available Vuzix M100 which is already being deployed in several industrial applications.
Smart Glasses have graduated from the geeky gadgets phase to business enhancing use cases. The top three Smart Glasses in terms of commercial availability were present on many booths at MWC being used to show off real money making or saving applications.
What caught my eye was the showing of workplace enhancing applications by many of the large corporations using Smart Glasses in real industrial and professional applications. Smart Glasses from the three Smart Glasses leaders, Google, Vuzix and Epson were on show demoing specific industrial applications such as warhousing operations, field repair, flow control, face recognition, security, and others. Often these were shown interchangeably with a single application being shown most often on Google Glass and Vuzix M100.
Vuzix devices were shown exclusively on the Fujitsu, BarcodEye and Brilliant Services booths.
SAP and DoCoMo were showing Applications on Google Glass and Vuzix M100 all three were used with various Augmented Reality applications on the Wikitude and Metaio booths.
quite an advancement from last year where only prototype devices were on show.
Evidence of the Augmented Reality and Smart Glasses ecosystem forming for end to end solutions took major steps forward at MWC.
Firstly, Layar, Metaio and Wikitude, the largest AR platform providers, have cooperated to make it easy for AR content to be shared across their technology platforms. There was a demonstration of AR content being used interchangeably by these browsers at an Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) event at the Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya (ICC) during the Mobile World Congress. This will greatly expand the scope of content creators and application developers to apply their innovations across multiple platforms.
Secondly, was the joint announcement of AR software platform company Wikitude and Vuzix of an alliance to offer SDK and APIs for Wikitude licensees to develop AR applications directly on the Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses device. This follows a similar alliance announcement made previously between Vuzix and Metaio.
InvenSense sensors and analysis software are in just about everything that moves in the mobile sector (I was told). Very accurate sound and motion sensing devices such as MEMS microphones and multi-axis motion tracking devices. Depending on application, InvenSense offers one to nine axis devices which include gyros, accelerometers and compass functions. These are their bread and butter, but of special note are their analysis software capabilities which make sense out of what is happening to turn raw data into situation and context terms. I spoke at length with Tanja Hofner, their Sr. Director of Hardware Applications and learned a lot about the art of the possible with sensors and why most simple step counters and other sensors being used in wearable products just don't deliver the value without proper in-context analysis and of course the UI to produce a genuinely valuable user experience.
if it's temperature and humidity that is needed, than another sensor company at MWC, Sensirion caught my eye as experts in this area. The tiny speck of s sensor pointed out in the picture is all it takes to add those parameters to the context needed to figure out what is going on. This wonderfully scientific and geeky looking sample they gave me adds battery and display to their tiny sensor to make it useful. Since your mobile phone and most wearable devices already have these, all you need is the sensor.
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 :-)
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!
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.