Wait, Essilor? Luxottica? These aren't exactly well-known companies in tech circles. Let me introduce you.
Essilor is the world's largest maker of corrective lenses. The company is strongly focused on research and introduced the world's first branded progressive lenses.
You also may have encountered Essilor on its retail sites, FramesDirect.com and EyeBuyDirect.com. Your optometrist definitely has. The company runs the MyOnlineOptical e-commerce site for eyecare professionals.
Essilor also unveiled last year a prototype of an augmented reality system for the visually impaired called MyEye, which enables any text to be read, converted to text and then read aloud to the wearer.
And you're probably already a big Luxottica customer. The company sells under most of the mainstream brands you're familiar with, including Ray-Ban, Oakley, Vogue Eyewear, Giorgio Armani, Brooks Brothers, Bulgari, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, DKNY, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Versace and many others. And you've likely shopped at Luxottica stores, including Sunglass Hut, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Glasses.com and others.
So the world's biggest lens company is merging with the world's biggest frame company. Here's the best part: Essilor CEO Hubert Sagnières told the media that the purpose of the merger was innovation in "connected glasses," and the ability to deliver them "extremely fast to consumers through all the stores of the world and all [our] networks," according to the Financial Times.
I'll refer you to the list of brands and stores above. That's where the world's largest eyeglasses company plans to deliver smart glasses, and fast.
What's wrong with today's smart glasses?
While lots of companies explore what's possible with the technology, and what's desirable among consumers, the field is really wide open for Apple and EssilorLuxottica.
Consider what's out there.
We all know about the splashy, high-end, mixed reality projects, including Microsoft's HoloLens and Magic Leap's big project.
And, recently, we learned a lot more from CES.
A San Francisco-based company called Osterhaut Design Group (ODG), which already sells successful industrial AR smart glasses, this month unveiled a sub-$1,000 pair for consumers called the R-8. The glasses connect to an Android phone via Bluetooth LE. The company claims that the glasses show two 720p screens that look to the wearer like one 90-inch 3D screen that appears to float 10 feet in front. The glasses also have two 1080p cameras.
This is a great example of what's happening in the market generally. Current consumer smart-glasses products are either too high-powered and therefore bulky, too expensive, too ambitious or too narrowly focused -- for example, on sports performance.
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