Vuzix got a lot of attention at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with their augmented reality smart glasses, called the Vuzix Blade. The large amount of media and consumer buzz points to a product that could make big changes to how we use technology, but is it possible that these glasses might be on track to replace smart phones?
CES is an important time for seeing what new technology is available, and all attendees have their eyes firmly on new products. Here are some of the accolades that the Vuzix Blade picked up from leading tech reviewers:
- TIME named Vuzix Blade “One of the 10 Coolest Gadgets at CES 2018”
- Rolling Stone named Vuzix Blade “One of the Best Gaming Gadgets at CES 2018”
- CNET named Vuzix Blade “Best of CES 2018: Day 1”
- FOX News named Vuzix Blade “Best Wearable”
- Tom’s Guide awarded Vuzix Blade “Best Augmented Reality at CES 2018”
- TechRadar awarded Vuzix Blade “Best AR on Show at CES 2018”
What is the Vuzix Blade?
Vuzix Blade has been called the “next step into consumer-grade augmented reality”. The headset works independently as a fully functioning computer, but can also be connected via Bluetooth to your smart phone to access features like text, or connected to Wi-Fi to receive email. The Blade will work with both Android and iOS. They have an 8-megapixel camera for taking photos, and will be compatible with prescription lenses for people who already wear glasses.
How is it different?
Google Glass failed to hold consumer attention, but the Blade has a secret weapon – Amazon’s Alexa. Already a popular feature in many homes, Alexa takes these glasses from a piece of wearable tech to a desirable asset with real-world application.
Blade also scores over Google Glass on some other important points. The user navigates using a touchpad on the side of the glasses, similar to Google’s product, but the display is much larger and very clean and crisp compared to the other glasses’ subtle design. The incredible resolution is comparable to a smartphone for some AR programs, yet the glasses still feel only slightly thicker than regular sunglasses.
These glasses build on the exciting points of past augmented reality wearable devices, but seem to have also addressed practical consumer concerns that made other options fail to achieve notable commercial success. Their display technology is remarkable, which also helps place the Vuzix Blade in a class of its own.
Alexa and Vuzix
Voice activation on smart glasses is becoming seen as a necessity, but the added bonus of the Alexa assistant is creating some interesting ideas around combing the augmented reality functions with real-world applications. Future developments might allow the wearer to look at an advertisement, and ask Alexa to purchase the product. While smart glasses don’t yet have this functionality, it is being developed on smart phones and is therefore only a short step away.
Alexa can help with directions, putting the instructions directly on top of the real streets. The glasses can also display video, email, take photos, allow you to listen to music and play games, all assisted by Alexa. There are also a few other intelligent collaborations by Vuzix, such as an app store with popular choices like Spotify, Pandora and Netflix ready to connect.
The first hurdle is the price – most people would find $1000 to be a big ask for a product that currently has more potential than functionality. The battery life could also be as short as 90 minutes under heavy use.
While the look of the glasses is far more “normal” than the “futuristic robot” appearance of Google Glass, they are still not going to be seen as a desirable fashion accessory for most people. However, Vuzix have indicated that they would consider selling the incredible screen technology to other companies, so more visually appealing options could be possible in the future.
Are Smart Phones Under Threat?
As the technology currently stands, smart glasses have a long way to go before they are able to come anywhere near replacing smart phones. Many of the most exciting possibilities are currently only theoretical applications. The other big question is whether people really want to “wear” their phones, even if the full range of technology was available.
However, the Vuzix Blade has definitely addressed some of the major issues that saw other augmented reality devices fall flat, and produced a functional device with crisp display and some exciting possible real-world uses.
The connectivity with Android or iOS phones is another important step towards merging the concept of the smartphone and smart glasses, and the incorporation of Alexa could have users asking their glasses for information before they pull out their phones.
Smart glasses are a long way away from threatening the smartphone market, but the Vuzix Blade has revived interest in this form of wearable tech, and the Blade could potentially be the forerunner to a big change in the direction of future smart technology markets.