"Smartglasses are back, baby" as my esteemed colleague Hugh Langley pointed out in last week's #Trending. But they're not really back in the sense that we have a successful version of Google Glass.
They've been deconstructed, split out into individual features - AR, audio, voice controls, camera, internet access - and they probably won't be put back together again for a year or two.
Aside from the summer's hustling of AR glasses makers promising to make Pokémon hunting the real deal with their tech, the two big launches of the autumn so far have been Oakley's Radar Pace and Snap Inc's Spectacles.
Each of them essentially take one feature of Glass - audio/voice commands and capturing video - and turn that into the whole feature set. And it's not lazy, it's kinda genius.
Because if you look into someone's eyes and they're wearing a pair of Radar Pace sunglasses with its hearable module, you'll know - if you follow wearable tech news - that if they're not entirely listening to you, it's because they're listening to their heart rate and pace stats from the run they just did.
And if you're posing and suddenly you notice your friend staring straight at you in candy coloured coral Snap Inc Spectacles, chances are they're taking a 10 second clip of you to upload to SnapChat Memories. It's a wearable camera, the Oakleys are essentially a smart earbud.
The same rule pretty much applies to HoloLens too. It's so dorky looking, it's obvious the person wearing it is playing a nerdy game or otherwise preoccupied. Most of us are still wondering which way Magic Leap will go - either try to look like dumb glasses or do full futuro.
Maybe it's the fact that it's one headline feature tied to one recognisable product in each case. Or maybe it's the lack of an AR display which could provide all manner of distractions from humans trying to get your attention. But either way both these new 'smartglasses' solve the etiquette problem and make it look easy, too.
They're also both sunglasses not glasses that you may need a prescription for so the wearer can just lift them up to make eye contact and prove they're in reality. (Just like you can take headphones or a hearable quickly and easily out of your ear/s).
Glass & Animals
- #Trending: Smartglasses' second comingSmartglasses are back, baby
- Apple VR & AR investigationWe build the case that the Cupertino company is working on AR and VR
- 8 awesome future AR experiencesAugmented reality is so close, we can almost touch it
- AR: Then, now & nextThe past, present and future of AR
They look almost exactly like regular sunglasses, another big deal. And even though the Oakley is much more expensive at $449 to the Spectacles' $129.99, that's still less than half the price of Glass. In its defence it was never a consumer product but hey, everyone treated it like one and it suffered as a result.
When everyone is looking down at their smartphone - and now smartwatch screens - it's nice to have some thrilling, full on eye contact with another human being. That's why we're just not ready to jump to Glass levels of weirdness. This new batch of deconstructed smartglasses will help us come round to the idea of wearing tech on our faces.
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