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Google Glass strikes back

Mike Elgan | Aug. 22, 2016
Mocked and shunned by society for wearing Google's dorky face upgrade, Google Glass fans were right all along

A couple of years ago, Google and Italian glasses giant Luxottica announced a partnership to develop Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses using Google Glass technology. When the first commercial Google Glass headsets ship, we can expect sunglasses from these companies as well. (Neither Google nor Luxottica immediately replied to my request for details on the current state of the partnership.)

Patents don't always reveal what types of products companies will actually ship, but Google's many Glass patents suggest ideas and directions. Last week, a new patent emerged showing a future version of Google Glass with some new features. One is the option to use standard rechargeable or disposable batteries -- AAA, AA or 9-volt. This would be valuable for people using Glass far away from electrical outlets, or without the time to charge between uses. The battery options sound to me like a stopgap to solve the problem of Glass's short battery life until better battery technology can be developed.

The same patent also shows a redesigned headset that may be more comfortable to wear. This is only the latest of many Google Glass patents that have emerged since the Explorer program.

How Google Glass has influenced technology

With its Glass initiative, Google pioneered and popularized the use of smart glasses, and the effort is now having an impact in other markets.

The U.S. women's track cyclists won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics. One of their advantages was Google Glass-like Solos smart cycling glasses, which they used for training. The special sunglasses feature heads-up displays that provide real-time stats, so the cyclists can track their performances without taking their eyes off the road.

Heads-up displays that work similar to the Google Glass version are coming out for all kinds of sports, including skiing and scuba diving.

The consumer market will be affected as well.

One of the best uses of Google Glass was the camera, which you could activate with a button, a touchpad or a voice command, or by simply winking your eye. A product now being crowdfunded in Japan called the Blincam emulates that feature. The Blincam itself is a camera that clips on the side of a pair of regular glasses or sunglasses. When it detects a blink, it takes a picture, then uploads it to your phone via Bluetooth. The company plans to demo the product for the first time at TechCrunch Disrupt in September and sell it on Amazon and elsewhere next year.

I believe the experiential live video trend I talked about recently in this space will drive huge demand for eye-level cameras, including consumer versions of Google Glass as well as copycat products.


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