When Google showcased its first smart glasses — Google Glass — at its annual developers conference, Google I/O 2012, it felt like a gizmo straight out of a science-fiction movie. In the same year it was recognized by Time Magazine as the ‘Best Invention of the Year 2012’. Despite the initial enthusiasm, Google Glass failed to make a mark among the masses. Privacy concerns and limited functionality, along with a hefty $1,500 (roughly Rs.1,11,920) price tag, forced the company to end its sales in 2015.
Two years later, Google gave the concept a second try by launching the Google Glass Enterprise Edition. But this time, the company restricted its access to select companies. Buoyed by its success, the company launched its third device in the category – Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 – in 2019 with voice commands, enhanced security and Meet support. The company has remained mostly silent about its smart glasses since then.
While we’ve heard little from Google in this regard, other companies have worried. For example, Snap Inc. has launched three generations of smart glasses under its Spectrum portfolio, while Bose has introduced Frames. Recently, Facebook in association with Ray-Ban launched Facebook Stories at an affordable price of $299 (approximately Rs.22,300). Additionally, Xiaomi unveiled the Xiaomi Smart Glasses that use optical waveguide technology to display information on one of the lenses. But the wearable is not yet available for sale.
Apart from these, many other similar devices are in the works for quite some time. Apple’s VR headsets have had different launch timelines over the years. Recent reports have pointed towards a 2023 launch but the company has neither accepted nor denied these rumors so far. Google is also said to be working on a new piece of smart glasses after it acquired North, a Canadian startup that specializes in smart glasses, last year. The company is actively (yet quietly) hiring people to build an “Augmented Reality OS” for an unspecified “innovative AR device.”
Now, every piece of gadget that exists in the mass market right now has a specific use case. It’s either trying to solve an existing problem or it’s trying to create an entirely new use case. Smart speakers and robotic vacuum cleaners are perfect examples to illustrate this. Robotic vacuum cleaners make cleaning easier and easier for people from all walks of life, including working professionals, households with children and the elderly. These devices can be scheduled to clean a particular area or the entire house at predefined time intervals or as per the requirement. On the other hand, smart speakers – a product category that Amazon has created with the launch of the first-generation Echo smart speaker – are designed to control all smart home appliances, from vacuum cleaners and TVs to lights, ACs and even air purifiers. Serves as a center for They reduce the effort required in performing everyday tasks and enable people to control various devices in their homes even remotely using simple voice commands.
Which brings us to an important question: What problem do smart glasses solve?
The Metaverse is the latest tech trend that has taken the world by a storm. It is an alternative virtual space that will use multiple technologies, including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) to deliver a collective social experience to people.
Mark Zuckerberg described the Metaverse as “the successor to the mobile Internet”. The Facebook founder said while naming his company Meta, “…you’ll be able to teleport instantly as a hologram so you can be at the office, at a concert with friends, or your parents without traveling.” Let’s stay in the living room.” and announced the Metaverse as the North Star of his company.
Of course, Facebook…err…Meta isn’t the only company following the trend. Shortly after Zuckerberg’s announcement, Microsoft announced Mesh, a mixed reality-based platform that provides users with shared experiences from anywhere. Similarly, Roblox and Zepto have announced their own metaverses that companies like Ralph Lauren are using to sell their NFTs – another major tech trend that is catching eyeballs from celebrities and companies across industries. But that discussion is for some other time.
The latest company to join the trend is Samsung. The company is partnering with Zepto to showcase its latest products at CES 2022 on its Metaverse platform, My House.
Although the Metaverse isn’t here yet, at least not in the way it’s envisioned, the building blocks for it are already in development. Companies across industries have begun to invest in NFTs, which will eventually act as a currency in the real world, to move into the metaverse. In the metaverse, NFTs will act as collectibles – in art or even fashion trends – that will be used by our avatars. In addition, more and more companies are creating their own versions of the Metaverse to bring people into the virtual world. Of course, security, interoperability, and accessibility are some of the major challenges that need to be addressed before the metaverse is sustainable. But companies are already working to address those issues and more.
So, where exactly do smart glasses fit in?
How will smart glasses aid this trend by acting as an interface or a platform that will help ‘bring the metaverse to the people’. Simply put, the smart glasses will act as a tool to help people connect with the metaverse.
There are certainly VR headsets from companies like Oculus, Magic Leap, and even Microsoft, but they’re just too big and heavy for everyday use. Furthermore, they are not dynamic enough to allow people to enjoy the best of both the world – the real world and the virtual world – at the same time. Smart glasses, on the other hand, have an edge over VR headsets due to their lighter weight and more relatable design. They would let people travel more easily between two worlds without having to put a ‘TV on their nose’.
However, such movement between the real world and the virtual world will require more powerful and intelligent smart glasses that can handle the computational bulk load while being easier on the eyes and light on the face. Existing smart glasses are not yet smart enough to accept this challenge, but with time and iterations they will move people into the metaverse.
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