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Handheld Technology

Finally, some smartglasses that don't make you look silly

The first iteration of Google Glass just wasn’t right. It didn’t look good, it was costly, it was only just ok in terms of hardware and optics, and eventually succumbed to public backlash. What we know about the new version suggests more of an evolution in design than a revolution; still a big bulky arm (although only one this time) and still a big prism in the front of your face.

There’s no shortage of companies offering similar takes on the bulky prism arm design. Opta-Invent, Alto Tech, Telepathy, MadGlass, and Vuzix all provide variations on a theme Google proved didn’t work. Which is a shame; wearable tech offers a lot of benefits, but no one is willing to look like a fruitcake to enjoy them.

Luckily, new sets of smartglasses from Carl Zeiss and Osterhout Design Group (ODG) offer real promise for taking the technology to the mainstream. Their USP? Both pairs look almost as good as regular glasses. Both might be a tad on the bulky side, but compared to what’s on the market currently, it’s like Gucci and Primark.

It’s not rocket science. It’s fashion. The smartwatch industry so far has lagged primarily because no one wants to wear a hockey-puck on their wrist. Apple has shown that people are far more willing to wear technology that has a bit of style built into it and is closer in form factor to the traditional watch. Hopefully Zeiss and ODG will start a trend of wearable tech heading towards a form factor that doesn’t make you a target for ridicule.

Elsewhere, Google Glass might still have some weight in the enterprise, but even that could be under threat. The likes of Microsoft’s HoloLens, Epson’s Movario and the Daqri Smart Helmet  all seem like better options. They might all be bulky and ugly, but at the same time are horribly practical; powerful, flexible, and perfect for the enterprise. You’ll be hard pressed to find people who’d wear them out and about in public by choice (aside from a few uber-cool hipsters), but that’s ok if they get the job done. However, when people are parting with their own money and choosing their own devices, form matters.

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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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