Google Glass has somewhat left a sour taste in our collective mouths. While it promised to be the tech we’ve always dreamed of, the implementation left a lot to be desired. Despite both this apparent failure and the news that has recently surfaced that Google is shutting down its Google Glass social media pages, Google is actually making room for a successor to Google Glass. Not to mention, several other companies have been working on prototypes to compete where Google left off with its smart glasses offering.
What Went Wrong with Google Glass
Google Glass promised to give us what we’ve wanted for a long time: glasses with a heads up display. However, Google’s implementation of the science-fantasy device, in the end, made us wary of wearing smart glasses in public. The biggest issue with them was the onboard camera, which was forced to be on at all times. This “feature” of the glasses made people uncomfortable around those wearing the glasses, even to the point that some businesses banned the use of the gadget. It was really the thought of being filmed so candidly without warning that caused the device to become so stigmatized. Yet, it wasn’t only the always-on camera.
Another limitation of the original Google Glass was the OS itself. Practical applications using the device were few and far between and even the implementations of the useful “apps” were often lacking. And the primary way to interface with the device, which was speaking with it, was often buggy. Even playing games with the device was difficult due to the sub-standard gyro/motion sensor. Google evidently realized these issues were hurting the brand and so it cut the cord before more damage could be done.
Post Google Glass
Noticing the stigma garnered by the device and its always-on camera, Google has put its original Glass project to sleep and started the new Project Aura. Where Google Glass focused on the consumer end of the market, project Aura aims its focus on the business market, a place where an always-on camera actually becomes an advantage instead of a hindrance. In the workplace, the idea of having a pair of smart glasses with an always-on camera comes with a lot of advantages. Imagine a warehouse worker seeing more clearly where an item is without having to look for it or a construction worker building objects with an on screen guide. With a camera, providing remote support becomes easier for both involved. It goes without saying, coming from the lessons learned from Google Glass, Project Aura appears to be on much better footing than its predecessor. However, during Glass’s hiatus, the smart glasses playing field got a bit more crowded.
Smart Glasses Brands
Since the closure of Google Glass, several new devices have cropped up, attempting to fill the place of Google Glass. Recently, the Vuzix Augmented Reality Glasses, with a design similar to the Google Glass has started selling advance copies of its product. Like the aim of Project Aura, the Vuzix smart glasses, which have been in development since at least 2013, appear to target business consumers instead the mass public and have been created to help employees work more efficiently. In design, they are quite similar to Google Glass. The Vuzix headset sits on top of a pair of glasses and provides a small augmented reality heads up display. Yet, both Vuzix and Project Aura don’t deliver on the promise that Glass first made to the consumer: a practical, easy to use heads-up display.
Enter Zeiss. The most promising of all of the Google Glass competitors is the Zeiss smart lenses. Currently only a working prototype, the Zeiss Smart Lenses go one step further than Google’s interpretation of smart glasses. Instead of having a screen placed in front of the lens of a pair of glasses, the Zeiss has figured out a way to embed the display of the smart glasses within the frames themselves. This means that the user won’t have to wear an extra dongle to get the heads up display to work. It is essentially designed to look and feel just like a pair of glasses so that the wearer doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Therefore meaning that people will actually wear the glasses. While the product is still a prototype and requires the use of an external battery pack, the pair of glasses is much more stylish and polished than that of Google Glass’s attempt. But don’t expect the Zeiss Smart Lenses to show up in your local lens store any time soon. While the hardware is approaching finalization, the OS is still reportedly in early development stages. Not to mention, having to wear a battery pack probably won’t do in the consumer market.
All in all, despite the apparent death of Google Glass, the future of smart glasses is clear: It’s here to stay. In the wake of the closure of Glass, a multitude of competitors have stepped up the plate to pick up where Google left off.