Smart Glasses Go To Work

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Industrial users, not consumers, may be the first to give wearable computing some traction, according to exhibitors at the Wearable TechCon event here. Smart glasses from Epson, Google and Sony are among those seeing some early adoption with business users, they said.

The event showcased a handful of smartwatches, smart glasses and components for wearables including printed and stretchable electronics. To date, the category has been more sizzle than steak, with projects such as Google’s Project Glass recovering from early hopes of big consumer markets.

“Google didn’t cancel the program they just stopped giving it to consumers and they are still working on the next version,” said Tero Aaltonen, chief executive of Augmenta, a startup developing gesture and control software for smart glasses.

The Google smart glasses along with Epson’s Moverio and eyewear from Vuzix are finding real uses in business applications, said Aaltonen. For example, a pilot project at DHL found workers were 25% more efficient identifying and sorting packages using Glass than their usual handheld computers.

“I think smart glasses will see use in logistics applications first,” he said.

Augmenta has been shipping since November a version of its software that enables gesture controls on Android devices. In July it will add a feature that projects virtual controls such as a keypad on a user’s hand (see image at bottom.)

For its part, Sony will start shipping in three weeks a limited supply of a developer’s version of smart glasses targeting industrial users, said Jonas Petterson (above), a project manager who demonstrated the product. The glasses use a side projection technique to show floating text and images across a full field of view. They will cost $840.

Sony is working with SAP and others to develop business apps for the glasses. They use a proprietary framework similar to the software on Sony’s smartphones already available as a free developer’s kit. The company will customize the design for large orders.

Next page: Sony shows consumer glasses, watches

Sony was more cautious about a prototype for consumer smart glasses (above) it demonstrated, calling them “just a concept.” The embedded camera may be removed before they become a product, given Google’s experiences with privacy around Project Glass. Like the Google product, Sony’s glasses project images only at one edge.

The consumer giant also showed its Smartwatch 3 (below), its first product designed for Android Wear. Its 420 milliamp hour battery drives its 1.2 GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 processor a minimum of two days. Its 1.6-inch transflective screen delivers 320 x 320 pixels.

The device has a mic to take Google Now commands but no speaker for receiving a call. It receives notifications from apps running on any smartphone running KitKat or Lollipop versions of Android.

Like many smartwatches, the Sony model packed fewer features than the recently announced Apple Watch, but at $249 with 4 Gbytes flash storage, they also sport much lower price tags.

Next page: Pebble keeps on ticking

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