Smart and augmented reality glasses are, for the most part, tech devices we’re still waiting on. It remains widely expected that in the next year or two, many if not most of the major tech companies that sell mobile devices will in fact unveil smart glasses with stunning capabilities. More specifically, Apple, Google, and Samsung could lead the way, and given its prior acquisition of Oculus, Facebook could be a player as well.
As we wait for anticipated AR glasses from companies like these though, it’s important to point out that there are in fact some fairly impressive smart glasses on the market already. For the most part, they don’t reach the level of performance or functionality we expect to see eventually. But they do represent the foundation for what could be a whole new class of near-ubiquitous everyday tech wearables.
For 2019, these are a few of the pairs of smart glasses you may want to know about, or potentially even purchase for your own use.
Vuzix Blade Review
With the exception of Microsoft’s HoloLens, which is more of a consumer-friendly prototype than an ordinary product, the Vuzix Blade may actually be the most high-profile option out there today. Available for $1,000, the Vuzix Blade is an impressive pair of glasses with a range of impressive capabilities that have seen it referred to, essentially, as a better version of the infamous Google Glass. The drawback with the Vuzix Blade is that it doesn’t look ordinary or stylish at all – you look like you’re wearing half a computer if you have them on. As a first effort though, and a glimpse of what to come, this is an impressive device (although $1,000 when there are more alternatives on the way may be steep for most).
ODG R-9 Review
If there’s a device out there right not that’s actually more robust and powerful than the Vuzix Blade it’s the ODG R-9. In fact, this is an awfully impressive option when it comes to the pure tech specs. Qualcomm Snapdragon processing, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 1080p camera projector, and a 5MP camera amount to what is essentially smartphone quality, all built into what is admittedly a fairly blocky, goggle-like pair of glasses. It’s an expensive option, so as with the Vuzix Blade it may make sense to wait until there are more alternatives. But it’s an impressive device.
If you’re looking for the best mix of price, functionality, and fashion, the Vue is hands down the best current option. Of the smart glasses discussed here, these are the only ones that look at least somewhat like ordinary glasses, in each of the four styles they come in. They’re available for pre-order at $249, and to date have raised an impressive $2.2 million on Kickstarter (with a $50,000 goal). The Vue doesn’t necessarily have the power or range of functions that near-future smart glasses will have, but it’s good at what it does – which, primarily, is offer fitness tracking, call reception, and music (through bone conduction headphones).
TechKen Sunglasses Review
TechKen Sunglasses are going to look a little short of prehistoric in another couple of years. But if you’re just curious what it would be like to have a few tech features in your sunglasses and you don’t want to spend money until real smart glasses come out, these can be fun to try. You can buy them on Amazon for less than $20, and essentially what you get is a pair of polarized sunglasses with WiFi connectivity and built-in headphones. The glasses basically stream music from your other devices, and while this functionality is so limited it’s a stretch to call these “smart” glasses, it’s actually fairly impressive for the price.
In going over these options, there are a lot of inevitable references to power and functionality, which speak less to what these specific devices can do and more to what we expect from this category in the years ahead. So we’re also going to provide a few examples of the kinds of things people are discussing wanting to use AR glasses for, beyond the basics.
Where AR Glasses are used?
This came up in relation to the Vue, and that pair of smart glasses actually does have impressive fitness tracking ability. But let’s assume we’ve only just scratched the surface of what it will be like to do workouts in next-gen smart glasses. Beyond mileage and heart rate, smart glasses will be able to guide us along routes, monitor additional vitals and points of interest, track speed, starts, and stops, and compile reports to send to connected apps or programs. Essentially these devices will be able to give us comprehensive overviews of our workouts.
Virtual reality gets more attention as related to sports, because it can truly pluck you out of your reality and drop you off at an event of your choosing. But don’t let that cloud the vast potential of AR glasses in arenas. With high-tech AR glasses, you might be able to view everything from player stats to detailed tactical breakdowns in real-time. It’s conceivable that you might be able to see instant replays through your lenses (which will no doubt remind some of the Harry Potter books’ invented “omniocular” devices). And there could also be betting implications. Digital sports betting options have already gotten extremely proficient at offering real-time, live wagering, and these same practices made available through smart glasses during contests seems a natural next move for the bookie sites.
This is a large category, but one that bears further exploration than the simple mention that the Vue can handle call reception. Essentially, though it sounds bold to say it, smart and AR glasses have the potential to supplant smartphones as our primary communication devices in day-to-day life. That’s not to say they’ll make our phones obsolete; in fact, they may even be powered by them, in some cases. But even if you still have your phone for certain purposes, you may well wind up reading texts on your lenses and responding via dictation. You’ll see incoming calls or voicemail alerts in the corner of your field of vision and take calls or listen to messages by blink signal or the tap of a frame. And you may even have the option to turn on real-time subtitles while having actual human conversations with other people.
At this point, the idea of AR gaming no longer sounds entirely revolutionary. There already exist a fair few impressive AR games for Google and Apple mobile devices, to be sure. However, even the best of these games are hindered by the pure fact that they need to be played through smartphones held up before one’s eyes. Glasses will change all of that, and could, therefore, wind up being significant devices in the gaming world – even if this happens primarily through the enhancement of existing games.
There is frankly plenty more to say about the developing market and potential for smart and AR glasses. But hopefully, this overview has given you a better idea of what’s available, and what you may have to look forward to.