You probably haven’t missed Google’s recent announcement of the testing of Project Glass, the ground-breaking augmented reality glasses that puts the features of your smartphone front and center in a heads-up display (HUD) directly in front of your eyes.
As expected, the reports of other eyewear companies working on similar technologies are following on the heels of Google’s announcement. The week, Oakley Inc., reported that they are working on this type of augmented reality for their signature sunglasses, marketed towards athletes.
In today’s world of smartphones and information obtainable at a swipe of a finger, there’s definitely a market for the next phase of mobile computing – putting it literally in front of your face. It definitely gets rid of the head-bowed, distracted people walking along the streets or (cringe!) the bobbing head of a person driving on the highway while also using their phone. While we’re out in the world, our phones have replaced printed maps, cameras, and the need to have a computer nearby (just to name a few big benefits).
Looking at the image of the prototype for Project Glass, there are no lenses in the frames. That begs the obvious question, “Well, what about those of us that wear prescription eyewear?” After the initial announcement, this was later addressed by Isabelle Olsson, a member of the Project Glass team, that they are “….experimenting with designs that are meant to be extendable to different types of frames.”
I’m still scratching my head over this one. Prescription eyewear users are an afterthought with this project? The whole point of wearing glasses is to correct poor eyesight, and the point of wearing sunglasses is to protect the eyes against damaging ultraviolet rays. Wouldn’t eyeglass wearers be the primary audience here?
Now, I’m a bit of a tech geek, so I get that there’s the huge challenge of even creating this kind of technology alone. It’s hard enough to create a heads-up display that works perfectly. Throw in the complicated world of vision-correcting on top of all of that, and there’s a high potential for minds being blown to pieces. But, when there are more people in the world that need vision correction in the world than have perfect vision, I can’t imagine that there aren’t some glasses-wearers on Project Glass’ team and that their internal dialogue wasn’t piping up and asking, “Hey, what about someone like me?”
I’m sure a company like ours will pose an interesting challenge to Project Glass’ design team – when your glasses have no standard lens or frame shape, how will this fit on any design of glasses? Will eyewear designers begin to adapt their creations to accommodate this shift in available technology, or will the tech market be the ones to adapt to the existing eyewear industry? Only time will tell as the new advances in wearable technology begin to evolve.
Another interesting topic to consider – as eyewear continues to evolve from the negative perception it used to have of being unattractive and nerdy, companies that specialize in fun, funky glasses are gaining more fans as eyeglass wearers look for something different in their frames. It stands to reason that fashion vs. function could become a big consideration in deciding which type of frames to buy. When was the last time you bought glasses and considered what kind of technology could attach to it? For most of us, that answer is probably “never”. It may feel strange to imagine it, but I’m guessing that it won’t be too far off in the future.
In the meantime, fun eyewear owners, make sure you’re watching where you’re going when you’re walking and looking up directions to that great gyro place on your phone. Nothing smarts more than a lightpole in the face.