List of 5 Best Smart Glasses

The term smart glasses is an understatement. On a very basic level, they function as glasses. Yes, the kind that will help your astigmatism. No vision problems, you say? No worries. The lenses can be non-corrective or you might opt for sunglasses with UV protection.

Yet, these smart glasses are more than just vision-related. They are wearable tech which literally lets you “see” beyond the parameters of the here and now. On a not-so-basic level, they are computers that add information to what you are seeing. This is done through either an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) or embedded wireless glasses with an augmented reality (AR) overlay that can reflect projected digital images. By using cellular technology or Wi-Fi, smart glasses can run self-contained mobile apps. You could even communicate via natural language voice commands.

What Can They Do?

Just about anything.  They can improve vision if you have corrective lenses or protect your eyes from UV exposure to the sun. But that is like saying a car has four tires; you expect that, right?

Smart glasses can let you listen to music, track your activity, make calls, and hear turn-by-turn directions. No need to look at your phone to do these things. Gesture controls allow you to answer a call with a tap on the frames or swipe them to change songs.

While these applications are convenient and cool, there are other possibilities for smart glasses in various sectors. In the workplace, they can provide virtual assistance to employees. No need to memorize a manual of steps to take; these glasses can direct and guide with accuracy. The new employee doesn’t have to be monitored by a colleague, which saves both time and money. Inspections can be done remotely, and supervisors can oversee their staff.

In health care, smart glasses can give patients and doctors a way to communicate. They are an effective tool in telemedicine, allowing doctors to access a patient’s data easily and make an appropriate diagnosis.

Yet, smart glasses are virtually indistinguishable from traditional glasses. They can be just as compact and stylish as their non-tech counterparts. While most people wear glasses because they have to (as in have-to-see-better) smart glasses are worn because they offer so much more than just prescription lenses.

But which one is right for you?

Form, Function, and Dare We Say, Fun?

But specs aren’t the only thing that matters in tech, especially with these “spec-tacles.” Aesthetic has always had a place in tech. People want to use products that aren’t just top-of-the-line but that are attractive. The design of the product becomes even more important in wearable tech. People may compromise on an unattractive laptop but it’s much harder to justify “only specs matter” when the product is right on your face. Especially in recent years, as glasses have gone from necessary for vision correction to unique fashion statements.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, failing to account for this was a major misstep of some of the initial ventures into smart glasses. Many of the earlier models of smart glasses crammed the full spectrum of smartphone features into a pair of glasses. But, as technically impressive as this was, the general public was not enthused. Smart glasses were too “nerdy” and wearing a pair conveyed an interest in tech rather than a futuristic cool. Combined with the privacy concerns of essentially having a fully-functional smartphone hidden in a pair of glasses, the general public rejected the new innovations.

But smart glasses startups have responded to the public and the mistakes of their predecessors. Wearable tech has to package the functions in an aesthetically pleasing package. Newer companies have also recognized the appeal (and necessity) of limiting features. Yes, you can have a fully-functional video camera in a pair of glasses, but is it a good idea?

The Wall Street Journal’s continued coverage of smart glasses includes how they have gone from reaching a broad audience of the general public to more niche sectors. The product can target certain consumers more effectively by improving the features they need and not complicating the process with the ones they don’t.

Here are some notable smart glasses that haven’t abandoned the dream but have re-tooled their product and message to incorporate more fashionable glasses and select features.

Spectacles by Snap Inc.

Were you one of the people who thought glasses that could record video was an interesting feature? Many were at least intrigued by the idea, even if ultimately public privacy concerns overruled the technical capability. But previous product failures didn’t mean the idea needed to be abandoned entirely. Snap definitely didn’t think so.

Snap devised a way to leave the camera in the glasses while protecting others’ privacy in public. They might be the perfect company to take on this challenge. Even if you’re unfamiliar with their Spectacles, you most likely know (or use) the mobile app they are well-known for: Snapchat. Their approach certainly makes good use of both their smart glasses related acquisitions and their popular image messaging platform.

If the average user is seeking to use their smart glasses to take video, chances are they’re looking to share it with friends and followers on social media. Snap Spectacles tackle smart glasses with video recording with respect for security along with simple sharing and do so in a fun-looking pair of sunglasses.

The smart sunglasses show off a bold design and bright color options and while recording, small lights circle around the camera signaling it’s on. Instead of sneaking a camera into glasses, Snap Spectacles make it the focal point. Pressing a button on the frame starts recording a 10-second long Snap. Recorded as a circular video, the glasses sync wirelessly with your smartphone, allowing you to share your Snap.
List of 5 Best Smart Glasses - Snap Spectacles by Smart Vision Labs

Vuzix M300

But not everyone gave up on the amazing technology that allows all the capabilities of a smartphone to reside in a frame and lenses.

The Vuzix M300 builds on the success of their popular M100 glasses. These fully-featured smart glasses don’t forego features to alleviate security concerns. Instead, they changed their marketing strategy.

The first thing you notice about the M300 glasses are their mature, professional appearance. The dark color and simple frame could be found right in an eyeglass showroom, if not for the computer module and camera attached. They also added nose pads so they fit like a regular pair of prescription glasses as well.

Vuzix found their target audience in the business sector. Employees from remote help desk operators to doctors have found smart glasses to be useful in their line of work. Anyone who needs their hands free while they access a computer could benefit from smart glasses. This is especially vital for people whose fields are unpredictable or requires managing many aspects at once. Having fully-featured smart glasses keeps them from being tied to a mobile device or computer to read and relay information.

Vuzix M300 makes the List of 5 Best Smart Glasses by Smart Vision Labs

ODG R-7HL

ODG R-7HL made the list of Smart Vision Labs top 5 Smart Glasses
Source: augmented.reality.news

The technology and highly specific applications in which smart glasses excel is a perfect match for businesses who have technical tasks which need to be performed efficiently and safely. You might easily picture smart glasses right at home in a boardroom meeting but what about workers with more physical professions?

Like Vuzix, ODG also finds their ideal consumer is in an enterprise. Like other recent smart glasses, they know design is just as important as what features are included. Combining their enterprise consumer, the relation of design and function, along with the idea that more hands-on professions can benefit from smart glasses resulted in the R-7HL glasses.

The R-7HL glasses might not be as attractive as some of the other models mentioned so far, however, their design complements their function. The HL in their name stands for “hazardous location.” These smart glasses are meant for workers who don a hard hat and protective gear instead of a business suit. ODG mentions applications like oil production and mining to give an image of the type of environment these glasses were created for.

Although it’s not quite “fashion,” the design of the R-7HL glasses is important to their consumer. To create this model, ODG actually redesigned much of their R-7 glasses, responding to their consumer who asked for a rugged product. The R-7HL’s augmented reality allows people in dangerous jobs to still get important information while keeping their hands at their work where it matters way more than at a company meeting table.

Vue Glasses

Unlike the models intended for enterprise use, the Vue glasses seek to appeal to the general public again, using the successes and failures of their predecessors. Judging by their successful Kickstarter campaign, they may have achieved this.

The Vue glasses don’t even offer augmented reality. Instead, they work through bone conduction which allows the glasses to function as an activity tracker and to offer earbud-free music listening. The wearer uses a touchpad on the side of the frame to interact with the glasses, such as to change the song with a swipe. Just as easy as on a smartphone but without having to pull it out of your pocket (and untangle your earbuds).

So without AR and what seems like simple features, how did this product get funded? As seems to be the theme with successful and hyped smart glasses alike, they don’t look like a “nerdy” accessory. In fact, leaving out the AR and using bone conduction technology allows Vue to eliminate the computing device which typically rests on the side of the frame for more fully-featured smart glasses. The resulting product is indistinguishable from an ordinary pair of glasses. Except with those activity tracking and music listening experiences. See the appeal?

Liquid Lenses

We’ve seen the “smart” features, but how about a quick look at the “glasses” part? Like the Vue, these smart glasses also don’t have AR but that doesn’t disqualify them from using the name. The glasses listed so far have basically been head-mounted augmented reality devices (or at least offer supplementary features in the form of a pair of glasses). But researchers from the University of Utah have used the “smart” to improve the glasses.

These smart glasses have liquid lenses which allow them to change the focus, depending on the wearer’s needs. Regular prescription glasses can only correct one thing at a time. If you see well up close with your reading glasses on, your vision will be blurry when you look up from your book. These glasses would change for you instead of you changing your glasses.

The glasses connect with a smartphone app which contains the user’s prescription and changes the focus of the lens through Bluetooth. Inputting a new prescription results in the lens changing. This technology is very promising to people who switch between distance and reading glasses as well as bifocal users.

But even with these glasses that have the capability to improve people’s quality of life, design matters. As the average glasses-wearing consumer is the target market for these liquid lenses, their appearance is important. Even the leading researchers on this project acknowledge that the frames need engineering for aesthetic purposes before they will be suitable to offer to the public.

What are Liquid Lenses - Beyond Smart Glasses - Smart Vision Labs

Smart and Stylish

Glasses are no longer function over form. Engineers and designers, along with creative minds, need to collaborate to make glasses everyone can be excited for. No need to sacrifice looks. That’s what glasses are all about anyway.

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