While some think that Google Glass makes us look like cyborgs, future wearable displays may not be noticeable to the everyday onlooker. Laforge's Icis smart glasses, which are currently in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign, are designed to look like a regular pair of designer eyeglasses.
There are several Google Glass competitors out there that strive to look as close to a standard pair of spectacles as possible. The Optinvent ORA, for instance, looks similar to everyday eyeglasses but still features a glass prism to project images in front of its wearer. Judging by the promotional video on its Kickstarter campaign, Icis' technology will integrate seamlessly into its lens.
Laforge also says that internal components such as speakers, a circuit board, sensors, a touchpad and a camera will be integrated directly into the glass' chassis. This keeps the headset from being too bulky.
The standard version of Icis will run on a 1GHz Texas Instruments Sitara processor and comes with 512MB of storage, 1GB of RAM and a 640 x 480-pixel resolution display. The BOLD edition, which is the more premium model with additional color options, is powered by the same processor but comes with 1GB of RAM. It also comes with a higher resolution 600 x 600 display and a 5-MP camera. Laforge does note, however, that the specs are not yet finalized and are subject to change.
Those who preorder the Icis BOLD on Indiegogo in February can reserve a pair for $420, which is $200 less than the regular $620 price. There's also a limited edition BOLD pair available for $720, which features a different texture than the regular BOLD glasses. Laforge is charging $320 to reserve the beta version of its headset.
While other wearable displays such as Google Glass and the Vuzix M100 run a modified version of Android, Icis' functionality relies on Laforge's SocialFLO app. This app lets your phone communicate with the Icis and displays your apps as widgets on the display. Wearers will be able to hand-pick apps that appear on the Icis from within the SocialFLO app.
Laforge also takes a slightly different approach to how icons are show on its wearable display. Don't expect to see a floating screen in the corner of your eye like you would with Glass. Instead, widgets are neatly displayed in a line along the left and right side of your field of vision. Laforge says that full screen apps aren't available due to safety concerns. Like Glass, Icis wearers will also interact with the device through a touchpad, although its unclear exactly where the touchpad will live on the headset.
Icis is slated to ship in January 2015, and it will be available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone platforms. Laforge is also offering prescription lenses for the Icis, although the company hasn't mentioned if these will be available upon launch.
Icis is designed to integrate technology seamlessly into your everyday pair of glasses, but its functionality is slightly limited when compared to Glass and other wearable displays. Laforge's headset, for instance, doesn't seem to support voice commands like Google's heads up display. Vuzix' Waveguide lens, which is expected to make its way into a wearable display in the near future, offers full color augmented reality packed seamlessly into a single lens.
Still, Laforge's natural design and fresh UI approach could make it a worthwhile competitor if wearable displays ever catch on with the mainstream audience. And, since you can run any app on your phone, this means your app selection is likely to be much wider than that of other wearable displays. You know what that means -- get ready for first person Snapchats!