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Why 'invisible smart glasses' are the perfect wearable

Mike Elgan | Nov. 7, 2016
Dozens of companies promise conspicuous, bulky and expensive smart glasses. But the best idea is regular glasses that are smart.

What if smart glasses looked like regular, everyday glasses?

Google Glass was derided in the press as a dorky, clunky, privacy-invading error. (In truth, it was a bold experiment that launched the smart glasses revolution.)

Google Glass proved that conspicuous wearables don't belong on your face. The camera made people nervous. The screen caused a malady I called "Glass eye" (pain from having one eye exposed to bright light in a dark room). Looking at the Google Glass screen created awkward social situations when users looked up and to the right to see the screen. Battery life was terrible.

All these problems were caused by the visual elements of Google Glass -- the camera and screen prism. But what if someone came out with smart glasses without optics?

Good news: smart glasses with no camera or screen are coming on the market. The great thing about these glasses isn't the lack of cameras and screens. It's that they can pass as totally normal, everyday prescription glasses or sunglasses (or both).

I call this category "invisible smart glasses," because the wearable computing elements are invisible.

This ability to pass as normal glasses is, to me, the ultimate feature. Most people won't accept conspicuous electronics on their faces.

I believe that invisible smart glasses will soon surpass smart watches and all other wearables. Eventually, they'll surpass even dumb glasses.

Here's why all glasses should be invisible smart glasses.


The best "invisible smart glasses" I've seen so far are called Vue smart glasses. They're being crowdfunded on Kickstarter.

I sat down this week with two members of the four-person Vue team: co-founder Tiantian Zhang and product marketing manager, Aaron Rowley, at their incubator office in San Francisco. I also got to check out Vue prototypes.

Vue glasses look almost exactly like ordinary prescription glasses or sunglasses. No bulky electronics. No strange visible screens or lights. And at 28 grams (0.9 ounces), they're light.

Vue glasses will come in two styles ("Classic" and "Trendy"), three colors (black, white and brown) plus five options for the temples (black, "carbon fiber," "wood," brown and blue) and three lens types (prescription, sunglasses and "fashion" -- where you just wear glasses for the look).

All the "smart" interface elements are hidden. Sure, if you look carefully at the earpiece or curve of the temple (the part of the glasses that hook around your ears), they do look fat. Unlike Google Glass, which are fat on one side and basically wire thin on the other, both Vue temples are the same size, with the bulk of the electronics on one side and the battery on the other.


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