The primary goal of eyeglasses has been to boost our vision to 20/20 for decades. But now that 2021 is coming, eyeglass designers and internet entrepreneurs are joining together to even make our one-trick-pony glasses smarter.
What are Smart Glasses ? in the World? Simply put, they are an attempt to bring the wireless networking and imagery we enjoy into the frames and lenses of our eyewear on our home computers and mobile phones.
Just like we can no longer imagine living without a laptop or cell phone, our eyeglasses, and even our contact lenses, will soon be able to appreciate the same flexibility and connectivity. Quite an eye-opener, don't you think?
The way is paved by Google Glass
With the release of Google Glass Explorer, Google was the first to introduce this modern vision of eyewear in 2013, aiming to expand on the success of smart watches and other wearable wireless devices.
Unfortunately, for most, the Explorer proved too geeky, awkward and pricey ($1,500), causing Google to yank it after 18 months from the market.
How smart glasses work ?
However, Google Glass proved a worthy archetype for smart glasses that other tech players would soon refine. This is how the smarts were slipped into smart glasses by Google Glass:
Sound: At the end of the ear rest, the speaker for wireless audio inputs and cellphone reception is located (s). Instead of air conduction through the audio canal, audio is transmitted to the ear through bone conduction.
Smarts: The computing brain of the central processing unit (CPU) is located on the arm of an ear rest.
Mic: The microphone is perched under one hinge for cellphone calls and hands-free speech search. For audio feedback and alerts, as well as for listening to music and podcasts, most smart glasses today pair the microphone with a micro speaker.
Projector and Prism: This projection form, called the curved mirror or curved mirror combiner, is positioned above the upper part of the lens and provides partially transparent digital displays without obscuring the real-world view. An alternate version called waveguide holographic optics is offered now by some manufacturers. The secret that unlocks the experience of smart glasses is the visual overlay of text and photos within our field of view.
Camera: Though an obvious feature of our selfie period, the Google Glasses temple camera lens brought an unintended new experience with it: privacy issues. In essence, many onlookers were not thrilled to be filmed and rescued without their permission, a reaction that might have hastened the departure of Explorer. While smart manufacturers now make camera lenses small enough to fit inconspicuously within the frame of their products, a few now sell camera-less versions, including Focals by North and Vue.
Driven by touch, expression or ideas
The different ways you can monitor them are almost as enthralling as the visual overlays of smart glasses.
We can monitor smart glasses by clicking, tapping or swiping controls built into the frame instead of the keyboard and mouse we're all used to, verbalizing our requests as we do to Alexa and Siri, and/or directing their displays through our phone or wearable devices such as Focals by North's hand ring.
Other choices available to smart glasses manufacturers include gesture recognition of head, eye and hand gestures, such as nodding or looking up or down, guiding by eye tracking, and even (really!) controlling our glasses with our thoughts.
Intelligent lenses and improved vision
The obvious visual function of all glasses was not ignored by developers either: to see better.
Several models have implemented liquid crystal technology to allow users to filter the level of brightness going through their intelligent lenses. Users can also optimize the visual overlays of their intelligent glasses by adjusting the amount of ambient light in their natural environment.
Brightness filtering is a technical move forward from photochromic or transitional lenses which could make unnecessary sunglasses.
Increasing style, decreasing cost, adding AR
As for the troublesome geeky look and sky-high price tag that sunk Google's Explorer, with trendy models such as the Jins MEME, Meta Pro and WISEUP, smart glasses are making some headway. The mixed result: Although their versatility is restricted by their relatively sleek designs, their prices are also reduced.
What does it look like for the future of smart glasses? In the latest alliance between Facebook and Ray-Ban parent company Luxottica, there is a commitment to launch their collaboration on augmented reality, code called Orion.
Orion will use augmented reality (AR) technology to live-stream digital images, with voice control via a Siri-like digital assistant, allegedly designed to replace smartphones. Between 2023 and 2025, Orion is estimated to enter the market.
In addition, Apple and Bose, major tech companies, are both exploring the promise of smart glasses in the coming decade as a major game-changer.
Although the specifics of Apple's T228 project remain a mystery, it is thought to concentrate on integrating virtual and augmented reality in a headset in the same way as it did for iPhone developers on its famous ARKit platform.
In the meantime, Bose, a major audio brand, is working to connect sound-based AR, motion sensors and GPS data to create real-time three-dimensional navigation and virtual street tours of attractions such as bars and restaurants.
And don't forget Amazon, which is now selling Amazon Echo frames ($179.99) that put Alexa on your prescription glasses by invitation.
The glasses look like any regular glasses, according to c/net, but discreetly voice Alexa's answers to your questions through your ears through tiny speakers. In order to get more detail, set reminders and use intelligent home gear while on the go, you can also swipe the side of the glasses.
A filter helps you to monitor which alerts you want to receive from the eyeglasses, so that not every email, phone call or doorbell ring can bombard you.
Smart glasses: Challenges and problems
The success of smart glasses will be dominated by several factors:
Education: Not only will the public need to learn how to literally operate the latest technologies right before their eyes, but how to adjust and react from their suddenly felt spectacles to the flood of wireless data, imaging and audio.
Knowledge of vision: Eyeglasses have to continue to perform their key purpose, which is to correct vision. As they adjust to the unimaginable mixed images ahead, wearers of smart glasses will need to keep their eye health in check.
Safety: Smart glasses have a tremendous potential to confuse the user, which, especially when driving, may increase the danger to themselves and others. Much before it reached the streets, Great Britain banned the use of Google Glass when driving.
Safety: Know that any personal details that you share through your smart glasses will not be secure. The risk that without their knowledge or permission you may take photographs or film others could also prove socially awkward.
Fashion: For the geeky-looking Google Glass, appearance proved a big hurdle. Advances in wireless technology can also make it possible for potential smart glasses to be fashionably slim and fashionable.
One thing is certain with all the smart glass technology on the horizon: very soon, we will never look at (or through) glasses the same way again.