Smartglasses are getting smarter and augmented reality specs are finally approaching prime time β and plenty of startups are getting into the space.
It's not just about slapping a camera on your face, either. AR, fitness tracking and mixed reality are all powering the next generation of smart eyewear.
Read this: The future of AR smartglasses
From first-person videos and photos to turn-by-turn directions, health-sensing and facial recognition, the invasion of the smartglasses is very much in progress. Facebook has big plans for AR, as does Apple, and Amazon is making inroads in this space too.
With that in mind, we've donned our future-specs to reveal the best smartglasses on the market β the devices that could well change how we interact with our world and each other. Check them out below.
Best AR smartglasses
Buy now: bynorth.com | From $599
Canadian startup North is taking a more fashion-focused look at AR glasses. Its Focals smartglasses are best described as what would happen if Warby Parker decided to make AR glasses.
It all starts by heading to a North store β there are only two right now, one in Brooklyn, New York and the other in Toronto, Canada. If you're nowhere near those, you can download the North Focals app for a virtual fitting. In person, you'll get fitted for your glasses, and North will use special technology to scan your face and get your ideal eye measurements for the best AR. You can also get prescription lenses.
You get a little ring that you can use to move through the Focals menus. It's a little difficult to walk and look at the same time, but you get used to it. You'll get things like text messages, music and maps, and Alexa is also on board to help you be productive.
North has something special with the Focals, but its biggest challenge is going to be getting them in the hands of people around the country and the world, not just in two cities. To help on that front, North has managed to price these things at well under $1,000.
Buy now: Amazon | $799
We're big fans of the Vuzix Blade, which is the first pair of really useful commercial AR glasses. They make AR glasses look better than ever, in more ways than one. First, they actually look like a pair of glasses. They're not Oakleys or Ray-Bans, but they don't scream "Look at me, I'm technology" like other smartglasses.
The best way to describe them is that they're a lot like the first generation of smartwatches. They're a good first step at getting a lot of advanced tech in a decent package β but there's still work to do. There is a next-gen design that's coming with a sleeker look, however.
There are still a number of apps that aren't ready yet. We got to try out things like music control, a camera, an image viewer and some games, and since then Vuzix has launched a live-transcription app, among others. Some of the other stuff is available in preview only, and still has work to go. These include the Alexa app. Vuzix is also working on getting streaming services on board, as well as a version of Yelp and mapping.
The display is really good, with even photos looking crisp and vibrant. There's also an 8MP camera on board, with 4GB of storage to fill up with what you want. As for battery life, we were able to get around three to four hours.
The Blade AR is maybe the best move toward mainstream AR glasses we've seen yet. The best bit? Vuzix has worked to lower the price from the original $1,800 down to below $1,000, just like it said it would.
Buy now: Amazon | $499
Solos aims to become a cyclist's best friend. These smartglasses pack in a small heads-up display enabling cyclists to glance at a host of useful data in real time, including speed, cadence, heart rate and power zones. They were supposed to be out in late 2016, but got held up by FCC certifications until recently and are available now.
They'll work with existing fitness apps like Strava and MapMyRide, will offer navigation and they're compatible with Bluetooth and ANT+ devices if you want to pair them with other cycling tracking kit. Solos has already been worn and used by the US Cycling team, so these glasses come with elite athletes' seal of approval.
We've tried them, and on the whole we were pleased with what these connected specs offer when you're out riding. They're lightweight and comfortable and have uses beyond cycling too. If you can stomach the price, then the Solos are worth taking a look at.
Wareable verdict: Solos cycling smartglasses review
Buy now: everysight.com | From Β£549
Like the Solos specs, Israel-based outfit Everysight has taken its years of expertise building heads-up displays for the military and built its own smart AR smartglasses for cyclists.
With smartphone-like internals, the Raptors use an OLED-based projector system to provide the display, which along with a host of onboard sensors can show mapping data, heart rate information and other ride info.
Essential reading: Cycling with Everysight's AR smartglasses
There's also a camera to offer action-cam-style footage and voice commands to use the specs hands-free. Everysight is now working on encouraging developers to build applications for its platform.
They do cost more than the Solos glasses, but they're easy to use, include a great heads-up display and have the nice addition of workout modes to put those connected smarts to good use.
Wareable verdict: Everysight Raptor review
Epson Moverio BT-300
Buy now: Amazon | Β£549
The BT-300 smartglasses ditch the clunky look of their predecessor, offering a more polished pair of AR smartglasses. The BT-300 is lighter than the previous model and not quite as geeky-looking either.
It uses a significantly sharper 720p HD resolution OLED display, and packs a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. It's also powered by an Intel Atom quad core processor, with Android covering the software bases.
Epson's smartglasses have always been quite business focused, but the BT-300's are a little more fun. There's also a drone edition that you can use to control your DJI drone straight from your specs.
Buy now: dreamworldvision.com | $619
Currently only offered as a developer kit, the smartphone-powered DreamGlass brings a resolution of 2.5K, a 90-degree field of view, 1080p RGB camera and built-in 6 degrees of freedom gesture control.
And by offering compatibility with Unity, this is one device that could legitimately become a cost-effective option for developers to build from. It's one to keep an eye on for the future, but for now you can get a better look at what the folks at DreamWorld are cooking by jumping over to our first impressions of DreamGlass.
Smartglasses that go beyond AR
Snap Spectacles 3
Buy now: Snapchat | Β£330
Yes, there is actually a third-generation pair of Snapchat Spectacles and this time they're packing an all-new design, dual HD cameras and 3D AR features.
The new Specs come in two colors β cobalt (black) and mineral (rose gold). There's also a charging case to keep the spectacles powered up in between your shooting.
Unlike previous glasses there's dual HD cameras, allowing you to take advantage of 3D filters, effects and lenses for your footage and photos. These photos will sync automatically to your phone and you can also take 3D photos.
The cameras will record 3D footage at 60fps, with 4GB of onboard storage storing around 100 videos or 1,200 photos. The price has jumped up significantly for the latest Snap Specs, so we'll be intrigued to find out if the added hardware will convince more people to grab a pair.
Amazon Echo Frames
Buy now: Amazon | From $180
Probably the biggest news in smartglasses right now is Amazon's recently announced Echo Frames, which bring its smart assistant Alexa to, well, your face.
These glasses don't have AR but they are definitely smart, and they look convincingly close to standard eyeglasses, which is an undeniably important consideration.
They're being rolled out slowly, through a discounted invitation-only system at first, but the possibility of having Alexa always accessible is alluring, and they're light and comfortable to wear, ticking most of the smartglasses boxes.
These could have a major impact on the market, so keep an eye out for people wearing them soon.
Buy now: Amazon | $349
Toronto-based wearable tech company InterAxon partnered up with the Italian Safilo Group to create the Lowdown Focus, in collaboration with Smith Optics. These are a pair of brain-sensing glasses and/or sunglasses aimed at improving your performance under pressure.
These stylish glasses are packed with sensors that can track brainwaves, eye movement, facial expressions and more. Plus there's a three-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and pressure sensors. It's got real-time biofeedback, brain training exercises and meditation to help you get "in the zone", focus and stay calm when it's showtime.
The Focus are no longer available from Smith's site, but you can still get them at through Amazon if you're interested in trying them out.
Buy now: enjoyvue.com | $199
Vue's prescription glasses and smartglasses are the product of a $2m Kickstarter campaign that was aiming to ship the smart glasses by July 2017. However, after dealing with some technical challenges, they were then been delayed to June 2018. They finally started actually shipping in March 2019, and Vue has been getting through its fulfilment lists since then.
Again, there's no AR here. Instead, Vue glasses use bone conduction tech so you can use these instead of earphones, as well as a touch interface to control music and calls. They also handle notifications and activity tracking.
We were impressed with the music playback when we saw prototypes last year, and we'll be checking back in with a pair of Vue glasses very soon to see how the final versions stack up.
Buy now: leveltechnology.com | $328
VSP's Level smartglasses aren't actually the smartest pair of glasses out there. They're essentially light fitness trackers that will give you your step count, miles, calories burned and active time. But they're also nice and stylish, with cute names referencing important inventors that made the Levels possible.
However, what makes them special is that they use fitness tracking not to help you, but to help others. The companion app will give you a point every time you hit your fitness goal. When you get 50 points, you can redeem them for free eye care and a pair of glasses for a person from one of four groups: the homeless, children, veterans or seniors.