Just how smart and safe will firstgeneration smart glasses be

first_imgOf the many companies looking into the concept of putting computers on our faces, Vuzix Smart Glasses are the closest to actually shipping. If the whole idea behind these wearable devices is that they provide quick access to information without the wearer having to look away from he or she is doing, then the design used will be integral to the success of the final product. With this in mind, coupled with the fact that smart glasses will be worn for hours on end, we got to wondering: does Vuzix really have the best approach?The design of the smart glasses M100 is very similar to that of Google’s Project Glass, so much that the two products are often compared. While Google is still some time away from releasing a product to consumers, Vuzix is nearly ready to start sell their initial batch of these wearable computers, to the design we see is likely the one that will hit the streets upon the release date.The M100 headset uses Bluetooth and WiFi to grab information from your smartphone and display it to you on a 800×480 display that is just about 2 inches from your eye. With the Vuzix M100, you have one eye focusing on the world around you, and the other focusing on the information displayed on the screen. The arm that holds the Smart Glasses’ display is flexible, but not enough to make it easy to move the tiny monitor out of your field of vision when you need both eyes.The need for both eyes, which helps with handy things like depth perception, comes up more than you might think. For example, driving would be a great use case for a wearable computer like the Vuzix M100… if the opaque display didn’t require the full attention of one of your eyes. (To say nothing of the amount of concentration you’d be taking off of the road.)If you take a look at how Google is approaching the usability problem with Project Glass, it feels a little more like a complete thought. Glass displays content to the user with a clear block of glass just above the eye. While this is not as vibrant an image as can be achieved by looking right at a display, you can walk or drive with Glass on your head and not have anything to worry about. Unfortunately, Glass lacks removable storage and the hinge holding the glass projector is the only movable part, so it won’t be ideal for everyone.The 720p camera mounted on the outward facing part of the M100’s display makes it easy for users to snap photos at eye level, but the camera is not fast enough to provide you with a second eye. If you were to use Vuzix for augmented reality (AR), your left and right eye wouldn’t sync up and you still lose most of your peripheral vision on the one eye.Now, to Vuzix’s credit, there’s no shortage of ways to connect the Smart Glasses to your face. Either a Bluetooth headset style ear hook or one of two different head harnesses allow you to use Smart Glasses on either side of your head, for use with either eye. The arm that holds the display is telescoping as well as flexible, which creates a one-size-fits-all experience. So far, the only way anyone has seen Project Glass worn is either with the fitted headband or attached to a pair of glasses. This has a lot to do with how sound is delivered with Glass versus the Vuzix method.Since most of your data an interactions will come from the smartphone, the only buttons on the Smart Glasses are the select key and the volume rocker. The smartphone app serves as a controller for apps, though you can store music and movies though the microSD card slot on the headset. It may seem counter intuitive when described that way, looking down at the screen on your phone to control the screen on your face, but the design of the app is such that you’re really just using the phone like a trackpad. It hasn’t been fully revealed how all the apps or the UI will be laid out, but the concept remains that you’ll spend most of your time killing the battery on the computer in your hand to control the other computer on your head.If you were to compare this interface to what we know so far about Google Glass, where the trackpad on the side and gestures make up most of the navigation for the headset, the difference is pretty clear. Vuzix has designed their Smart Glasses to work as an extension of your phone, while Google seems to be focusing Glass towards being an extension of their services.Vuzix feels an awful lot like something I would use while sitting down in my home or at a meeting, where I already have hardware that’s optimized for those environments. I could see the headset being enjoyable during a long flight, or as a notification system when playing a video game. Activities like walking or driving seem like they would only be hindered by this wearable tech experience, maybe dangerously so. If you look at Project Glass, it seems like Google has places a premium on being able to walk around and use the headset, possibly at the expense of more powerful features.As we get closer to launch, I hope Vuzix is able to make the use cases for this cool new tech more clear.last_img

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