If you thought smart glasses began and ended with Google Glass, you’re mistaken. At least according to the wearable tech analysts at Juniper Research. They’ve launched a new report that says shipments will top 12m by 2020, with a growth spurt coming after 2017.
While admitting that the market has stalled somewhat and is actually 15 months behind previous expectations due to Google pulling (then re-starting) its much-hyped Glass product, Juniper is expecting big things due to some new technology and re-focus in the market.
And the growth it expects will be some feat given that only around 1m products in this category are likely to be shipped this year.
So what’s the tech that’s going to make it happen? Microsoft’s HoloLens. Juniper expects it to kick-start further development and interest in the category.
Announced at the same time as Windows 10,HoloLens will finally start shipping (for developers, not the general public) in Q1 this year. Hololens is an augmented reality headset that’s basically a cordless Windows 10 computer. We’re not exactly talking about a fashion accessory here. But it’s interesting nonetheless. Check out this video to see what it can do.
So is there any other development happening in smart glasses? Of course there is. ODG (with its R7 product based on an Android operating system), Sony, Meta and potentially Magic Leap also have products set to move beyond developer-only devices and into more general availability.
And then there’s Google Glass 2, which is meant to launch this year, this time targeted at business rather than leisure users.
But will they have much more success than Google Glass 1 did? I actually tried out a pair of Googles Glasses back in mid-2014 and really wanted to like them. But while the Google rep said they’d liberate me from staring at my smartphone all day, having to tilt my head up and down to scroll through web pages didn’t feel very liberating!Nor did having everyone stare at me because of the strange glasses I was wearing.
In fact, it felt like this was yet another tech product (just like the smartwatch) where the tech guys didn’t so much meet a consumer demand, as developed the tech and hoped it would be appealing enough to create the demand later.
But tech firms have learnt their lessons, it seems. What’s different about the newer breed of smart eyewear is that they’ve realised trying to integrate them seamlessly into our everyday lives isn’t really on. They’re not fashion items with added functionality, and they’re not mini computers that can be made to look fashionable and feel like ordinary glasses.
This time round, their makers are targeting the business market and the augmented reality users, which means the products will be used in very specific scenarios, not to look generally cool while also giving you directions to the nearest bus stop.
Maybe one day we really will see smart glasses like those Geordi LaForge wore in Star Trek Next Generation. Now that would be smart…