Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. And augmented reality (AR) smart glasses have been touted as one way for you to miss even less when you’re looking around. Problem is, many smart glasses look dopey at best and downright ugly at worst. Looking at you, Google Glass.
But at CES 2021, Vuzix took the covers off a new pair of smart glasses that actually look like something we’d consider wearing. Currently, these new smart glasses have no proper model name, detailed specs, price or release date. But they do give us a glimpse at what to expect for the future of smart glasses.
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At first glance, the new Vuzix smart glasses look a lot like a pair of spectacles you’d expect someone painfully trendy to wear at a hipster cocktail bar, back when going to such places wasn’t tinged with the spectre of death from a global pandemic. But on closer inspection there’s more going on.
Created in partnership with Jade Bird Display, one of the most interesting parts of the Vuxiz specs is they make use of a small microLED display projector that fires images onto the spectacles' lenses, which can be clear or prescription. This "display engine" allows for projectors to be placed on both sides of the spectacles and using Vuzix’s waveguide tech, essentially beam color or monochrome images onto the lenses.
It’s not immediately clear what content the glasses would project into the wearer’s view. But given the spectacles are compatible with iOS and Android we’d expect them to display things like notifications, direction, and flag up places of interest or offers in shops as one wanders around; that might require surrendering a degree of location privacy and data.
Other features include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE support, as well as noise-cancelling microphones and stereo speakers. Gesture-based controls also feature, presumably to help access or dismiss things like notification without reaching for a phone paired with the glasses
AR smart glasses haven’t really taken off in the consumer tech world — see the Focals by North as just one example — and tend to be used more in the enterprise and industrial world; people working remote oil rig repairs for example can use them to get information on schematics while their hands are tied up with repair work. But if Vuzix can make a pair of smart glasses that look reasonably stylish and aren’t hugely expensive, then we could see a resurgence in smart glasses for all.
And with Apple apparently working on smart glasses, thought to be uncreatively dubbed Apple Glasses, then in the near future there could be a second coming for smart glasses to fill the gap the rather maligned Google Glass left.