We all know and love our smartphones, laptops, tablets, kindles, and iPods. We can’t imagine a world without them. We know such a world once existed, but how on earth did they manage to survive? But now imagine this:
It’s the morning commute. First Monday back after the New Year festivities. Oh how you wish you could run away from reality. But hold on, you can! All you have to do is pop on your smart glasses and the next thing you know you’re surrounded by little curly-haired people with hairy feet, amidst clear blue skies and luscious green rolling hills, while Gandalf offers you his pipe as you share some weed. (Pipe weed, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Middle Earth).
If this sounds too far-fetched to you, start getting used to it. The market for wearables is already opening up with the advent of the smartwatch; Android have already released their models and Apple is to bring out their Apple Watch sometime this year.
Smart glasses won’t be far behind. In fact, they’ve already been around, just not commercially. Osterhout Design Group products initially started out as devices for military applications, and are now broadening out into other industrial areas. They have been investing into their range of smart glasses for the past six years. So why smart glasses now if they’ve already been around for a while?
If you’re a keen gamer you’ll be familiar with those Oculus style headsets that completely immerse you in virtual reality. If you’re part of the rest of the world, you won’t have a clue what that is. Quite simply, picture a black rectangular box strapped to the top half of your face. The new smart glasses, however, are augmented reality glasses, such as Google Glass, which means that digital graphics and information are overlaid on top of the real world. Hence with one eye you can be admiring Gandalf’s majestic beard and with the other keeping track of your stop.
And what’s more these smart glasses are more fashion savvy. Last year Vuzix partnered with Lenovo and launched their M100 device, which looks a bit like an extended Bluetooth earpiece. This year Intel will be partnering up with Vuzix following a $24.8 million investment. Intel’s investment highlights their faith in the wearable tech market, which they claim is the next big growth area.
Jaunt, another wearables company, are tapping into the entertainment industry. Following their amassment of $28 million in funding from backers that included British Sky Broadcasting, they have released apps that range from an on-stage view of a Paul McCartney concert to that stroll with Gandalf through the Shire.
So if smart glasses will be able to transport you to Middle-Earth, what is there that they won’t be able to do? Jay Wright, vice president of product management at Qualcomm, stated that smart glasses had the potential to ‘disrupt the smartphone‘. Will smart glasses kill the smartphone star? Or anything that has a screen, for that matter. Are we likely to see a future of people watching television, listening to the radio, maybe even virtual shopping, all from a little piece of plastic curved around the side of their head? And how would advertisers feel about this prospect of their industry being turned upside down? If programmatic is challenging for them to grasp, embracing – and more importantly understanding – the technology of smart glasses may have them reaching out for some aspirins.
But perhaps we’re jumping the gun a little; after all, in order for wearables to be truly trending, they need to be just that – wearable. Teaming up with the fashion industry is imperative if wearable tech companies such as Vuzix and Jaunt want to see their products fly off the shelves. In an age where ‘sleek’ is the golden word of aesthetic descriptions, if the smart glasses don’t look good, consumers won’t bite, it’s as simple as that.
So whilst you may be getting used to your smartwatch, or eagerly anticipating it, watch this space; and if at some point this year or in the next you sit down next to someone wearing glasses on the tube and hear them say ‘You’re right, he was an absolute fool of a Took’, you’ll know who they’re talking to.
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