Google Glass launched amid frenzy, fanfare and, it must be said, a fair share of ridicule. It was an idea as applauded as it was mocked. While there were many stumbling blocks, including privacy issues, bugginess and compromised driving safety, hope remained that the most innovative company in the world would eventually reign victorious.
Then, on the 15th January 2015, Google announced it would halt all production of the product.
Really?! This is the company dead set on overcoming death (seriously, read all about it). And yet they couldn’t even turn our dreams of Mission: Impossible-style eyewear into reality. Disappointing, to say the least.
So, surely if the most revered tech brand in the world had consigned their smart eyewear to the tech dustbin, others should follow suit? Hmm. Not quite. This space is hustling and bustling, yet a lot of it is hush hush. Here we take a long, hard look at some of the biggest names rumoured to be entering this as yet unrealised market.
Bittersweet news – Google Glass 2.0 is alive and well, and yet it’s a barely recognisable reincarnation of Glass v1. Aimed at enterprises, this workplace-based version is already on the factory floor. Known officially as the Glass Enterprise Edition, it launched in the middle of last summer.
While it appears there could be a firm future for Glass Enterprise (a recent Forrester Research report that nearly 14.4 million US workers will wear smart glasses by 2025), it’s just not as exciting as fashion week, nor what we initially envisioned when Google Glass originally launched.
However, just as Google has lost focus on the consumer, more than enough players have set their sights on them – such as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung and even Facebook. Let’s round up these fresh-faced contenders to predict the future of smart eyewear…
Since the departure of the late, great Steve Jobs, Apple have had somewhat of a tough time of it. Release after release seems to have fallen flat, especially in comparison to the golden years of the first iPhones and iPads. So, what about their efforts when it come to smart eyewear?
Apple have been linked to Catcher Technology – a firm that creates lightweight frames for augmented reality tech. While there’s been no official statement, the rumour mills turn about Apple’s leap into smart eyewear come 2019/2020.
If sources are to be believed, we’ll be set for a device more like traditional glasses, rather than virtual reality headsets or visors. Given the brand’s focus on making the Apple Watch work, perhaps they may pick up where Google Glasses left off.
Amazon have hit a homerun when it comes to their Amazon Echo, claiming 68% of the smart speaker market, impressive stuff. Now the word on the Silicon Valley Street is that Amazon will harness Alexa in smart glasses, working alongside bone conduction technology – a tantalising new direction for this ream, if true.
Introducing the Microsoft HoloLens – a holographic, augmented reality headset. While this isn’t new news by any means (it was announced in 2015 at the Windows 10 Event), AND it’s less a pair a glasses, more a full-blown headset, there’s no doubting the breath-taking tech under the hood, and Microsoft are promising that this will eventually deliver those sci-fi visions of augmented/virtual reality right in the heart of the consumer’s home.
Very little is known about Samsung’s foray into this field, asides from the fact that they’ve just trademarked a logo which has been linked to “computerized vision-assisting eyewear”.
We’ll wait with baited breath, but we’ll probably need to be patient, as Samsung have smart glass patents dating ALLLL the way back to 2014.
Facebook have been more than open about their big plans, when it comes to augmented reality. In fact, they’ve laid out a ten-year vision, which ultimately leads to smart glasses that create a mixed-reality world. Unlike most other brands however, they’ve released images of what they’re developing, and Zuckerberg himself says that when they finally arrive in post-prototype version, it won’t “look like goggles or big headsets, but instead… just… like normal glasses”.
Smart Glasses for The Here and Now
Truly mainstream smart glasses may be a while away, despite many innovative players and ideas. For now however, there are smart glasses already in action – such as Solos (smart glasses for cyclists); Vuzix Blade AR (an Alexa-loaded, consumer/enterprise glass hybrid); Epson Moverio BT-300 (a business-focused offering that’s currently exploring the fitness market) and Lockdown Focus (glasses designed to analyse and improve your performance when under pressure).
How smart glasses will play out is anything but clear. Whilst we’re still stinging that Google Glass never delivered on all its intoxicating promises, looking to the patents and plans of the current companies in the game means that there’s plenty to get excited about.