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Finally: Smart glasses that don't look dumb

Mike Elgan | Jan. 12, 2016
When smart glasses look like regular glasses, they'll become just another option at the eye doctor

What Carl Zeiss enables for Luxottica is a design for smart glasses that is socially acceptable and compatible with fashion glasses.

By working together, Google, Luxottica and Carl Zeiss could mainstream smart glasses for consumers, and make them as common as bifocals or progressives. In fact, I think this is likely.

Why demand will grow for smart glasses

Literally dozens of smart glasses products are on the market or in development. Last week, several companies announced new products and technologies for smart glasses.

Luxottica's Oakley filed a patent published last week for an "e-paper" technology for smart glasses display. Oakley is also partnering with Intel on voice-command smart glasses for athletes called Radar Pace.

Kopin says it has developed the world’s smallest smart-glass display.

A company called Kopin announced last week what it claims is the world’s smallest smart-glass display. The "Pupil" display module is designed to hover in front of the lens of glasses and project an image into the wearer's eye like Google Glass does, but it's only 2mm high. Another line called the Pearl modules are larger and for enterprise users.

GPS giant Garmin last week showed off a new $399.99 smart glasses product for cyclists called Varia Vision. It works like Google Glass, but clips on to sunglasses. It's even got touch control on the side and a boom that sits in front of the glasses lens. Varia Vision ships in March.

Another company called Lumus showed off its DK 50 and DK 45 smart glasses, which are very bright, very wide field-of-view smart glasses. While these might be ideal for enterprise and other specialized applications, they'll never work as consumer devices because they look so obtrusive.

Oculus Rift  
The Oculus Rift virtual reality headgear will sell for $600. Credit: Hayden Dingman

The gradual introduction of smart glass technology in the workplace and in sports will get people accustomed to the idea. The coming revolution in virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality in products ranging from Google Cardboard to Oculus Rift will also help drive demand for eyewear that delivers computer screens, but that can be worn all the time.

This rising demand, along with the unobtrusive technology to go with it, will take a few more years to develop. But I believe that the mainstream option for smart glasses for anyone buying prescription glasses is inevitable.


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