The CES 2015 was a fun place to be for anyone who is interested in eyewear tech. This sector of wearables, though growing, has not yet witnessed the explosive growth as seen by wrist wearables. Google has worked on the Google Glass for a while now which really hasn’t gone mainstream yet. Sony had a couple of eyewear prototypes to show – one which is very similar to the Google Glass and other similar to Moverio from Epson.
It is interesting how Sony is working in parallel on two smart glasses that operate very differently and, in my opinion, doing a very good job on both. The first one is called the Sony SmartEyeGlass Attach, which can be attached the to any glasses and other is called Sony SmartEyeGlass which is a complete unit.
The eyewear market is not mature yet, but when it does so perhaps in a year or two, Sony seems well placed to give a choice of eyewears to the consumers.
Sony SmartEyeGlass Attach
The SmartEyeGlass Attach is actually a Heads-Up Display module that can theoretically be attached to any glasses or goggles that you own. Whether you would want to do that or not is a completely different topic – eye wearables have not yet reached a stage where they would integrate with your glasses so seamlessly that it would not attract curious glances.
Sony’s SmartEyeGlass Attach throws the subtlety out the window with two boxes that sit on either side of your glasses. They are connected via a wire that runs around the back of your head.
Each box contains a Cortex-A7 processor, a sensor hub, a 400mAh battery, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modules. From the right box, the display module extends to the front of your right eye and houses the high-resolution OLED Microdisplay, an optical unit and a cover.
The one thing, that I noticed immediately, was that I was able to clearly see the content on the display module without my spectacles. Obviously, I struggled to clearly see the actual scene regarding which this module was giving additional information.
The location of the module was in the natural field of vision though near the periphery, unlike that of Google Glass, which is to the right and top. Personally, I found this location of the display better than that of the Google Glass as it did not force me to divert my gaze off the line of sight.
Sony intends to target this eyewear at sports and business applications before making foray into consumer applications. The attach modules are to be made available to OEMs and Sony is also working on developing an SDK to facilitate application development. The device is currently in a prototype stage and is expected to go into production later this year.
The other SmartEyeGlass shown by Sony at CES 2015 is also a device aimed at Enterprise Applications first. It was announced back in September, but CES was a good opportunity to try it out.
This eyewear overlays additional information in your view. It comes with a hand-held controller that lets you control some actions and features. The glasses on this eyewear currently have no provision of compensating for spectacles nor the option to use it with prescription glasses.
This device is different from ‘Attach’ in the manner in which it displays content in your view. The content is overlays at any location in your view, depending on context and the object in your view that the information pertains to. The content is mostly textual, displayed in a fluorescent green color.
The SmartEyeGlass connects with Android smartphones and requires at least Android 4.1 for compatibility. The eyewear packs many sensors including an accelerometer, a gyroscope, an electronic compass, and a brightness sensor. it also has microphones and a 3 MP camera.
Sony has also released a dedicated Software Development Kit (SDK) to develop applications for this eyewear.
I had an opportunity to try out this eyewear at a Hackathon a few months ago, and it seemed very intuitive. There are several applications of a SmartEyeGlass in the consumer domain as well.
Consider an application that reads the barcode on a product and fetches real-time updates on the pricing – that way you are sure to get the best of prices at all times. The SmartEyeGlass is now available for sale to developers, but a consumer release date is not yet known.