The idea of having a computer screen in your field of vision hasn’t caught on yet, but the consensus – at least among technology companies – seems to be that it’s an idea worth pursuing.
Google Glass, which made a big splash when it debuted in 2012 but was subsequently mocked for being buggy and a bit silly-looking, is being reworked by a brand-new team at Google. And the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, held last month in Las Vegas, featured lots of similar pieces of headgear that include microdisplays and voice control.
Sony is betting on smart glasses, too. On Tuesday, the company announced that the Developer Edition of its SmartEyeglass augmented-reality specs are available for pre-order in Germany and the UK, and that early adopters in eight more countries, including Japan and the US, will be able to buy SmartEyeglasses next month.
SmartEyeglass is a different approach to wearable headgear than Google Glass. Where the latter has a small display that rests just above the user’s field of vision, Sony’s glasses have transparent lenses onto which information and images can be projected. On the SmartEyeglass product page, Sony envisions a world in which useful statistics can be displayed at sports games, and in which users who have gotten lost in the city can get directions to their destination in the form of arrows laid out on the pavement.
It’s worth noting that this wondrous world of holographic imagery is – for now – available only in green. The display powering SmartEyeglass is monochrome, although the device is capable of taking (but not displaying) full-color pictures. It also has a gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass for gathering information about movement and orientation, and connects to a smart phone for location data and other info.
The SmartEyeglass is bulky compared to Google Glass. A wire descends from the glasses, leading to a circular controller that’s meant to be stashed in a pocket or clipped to a lapel. The controller houses the unit’s battery, and also has a speaker and microphone for making phone calls, as well as a touch sensor for controlling the glasses. When the SmartEyeglass prototype emerged last fall, tech site Engadget snarked that it “makes Google Glass look chic.”
The SmartEyeglass Developer Edition will go for $840 when in launches in the US. Sony is releasing SmartEyeglass with a tiny complement of apps, including Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail. Developers will have access to those apps, as well as to the SmartEyeglass SDK so they can begin writing their own programs for the device.