Wireless Technologies

Are smartglasses due a "phase 2"?

Despite plenty of headlines, smart headgear just hasn’t taken off. But that doesn’t mean it won’t.

“The global smartglasses market is on life-support, but it is NOT dead,” claims Strategy Analytics analyst, Steven Waltzer.

While acknowledging the market has been mostly a flop, especially on the consumer side, he claims the technology’s “Phase 2” will begin next year and could see a revival of the technology.

A billion people wear glasses, and 10% of that market would be an audience 100 million people strong, which clearly provides plenty of incentive for a technology industry eager to take money from any industry it thinks needs upheaval.

“The wearables industry must computerize glasses, goggles and sunglasses -- and give consumers or businesses compelling reasons and benefits to upgrade from their old “analog” spectacles to modern “digital” smartglasses. It will not be easy, but it is certainly doable.”

Snap’s Spectacles – which so far have avoided any “Glasshole”-like roadblocks - and rumours of Apple smartglasses might well help drive consumer interest in the technology. But as the general disappointment of the Apple Watch showed, it’s not that easy to create demand for a technology segment that just hasn’t proved its worth yet. 

Eyewear giant Luxottica has made some announcements around smartglass tech with Intel and Google, but so far there’s been little movement from the incumbents to really show they’re worried about being upended. Zeiss and ODG have both made some movement but the former is yet to go on sale while the latter costs almost $3000. The general lack of panic mirrors the overall indifference over smartwatches from the traditional watch industry.

My take

I’ve tried out a lot of the different smartglass tech out there, and I’m doubtful the market is going to see a real turnaround in the next 12 months.

By 2022 - the end of Waltzer’s “Phase 2” – we might see some real traction, but there’s still some real issues to overcome first. Namely the optics and form factor. Epson by far have the best and brightest optics, but the glasses are clunky and the tether don’t do it for me. The Google Glass-like Vuzix’s tiny square is just too small to really be useful. Microsoft’s HoloLens has a lot of promise, but the field of view is restrictive to the point of impractical, and incredibly expensive. 

I haven’t tried the latest incarnation of the Meta – though it looks a lot more impressive than the original iteration – and Magic Leap are yet to reveal the full fruits of their incredibly well-funded labour.

Though it’s no doubt a while off, I can’t wait for the day until smartglasses are almost indistinguishable from the traditional variety and are filled will intuitive information: Think Alexa and Firefly mixed with Google Cards, relaying exactly what I want and need in all the right context. But that’s probably a far off, “Phase 3” dream.


Also read:
Finally, some smartglasses that don’t make you look silly
Nokia attempts a healthy revival through Withings
Fossil/Misfit merger shows the way ahead for wearables
TAG Heuer’s move into tech is no revolution
The watch industry shows no fear of Silicon Valley
Microsoft and Nokia: The fallout of a calamitous collision


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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