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Why 2014 is the 'year of smart glasses'

Mike Elgan | Jan. 2, 2014
Raise your glass to the coming wave of face-top computing gadgets. You'll see: There's something for everybody.

Epiphany Eyewear

Epiphany Eyewear from Vergence Labs starts at $299 and is mostly for pictures and video. The content is livestreamed to your PC via Wi-Fi or USB. One of the best things about Epiphany is that the headset looks a lot like regular glasses, and they can be fitted in some circumstances with prescription lenses, according to the company. But that comes at a price -- Epiphany has no display, so you can't see what you're filming until later. Vergence says Epiphany Eyewear may ship as early as January.


A company called GlassUp makes $299 glasses that show you, in their Google-like glasses headset via Bluetooth, what's displayed on your smartphone screen. Conceptually, it's just like a Bluetooth earpiece, but for your eye instead of your ear. GlassUp intends to release apps, and has already released an SKD, but these will be smartphone apps that optimize the experience of using a phone while looking at it through the GlassUp glasses. The biggest difference with Google Glass is that GlassUP has no camera, so it will be spared criticism for invading privacy. It's supposed to go on sale in February.

Meta 1

Meta believes that smart glasses can replace smartphones and even laptops in the future. They make glasses that are not only "augmented reality" -- a screen superimposed onto the natural field of view like most smart glasses -- but in 3D via two 1280 x 720-pixel LCD displays, creating the illusion of a hologram. The Meta 1 glasses also have two cameras for capturing 3D images and enabling Kinect-like in-air gestures, and stereo sound. They also have far more powerful electronics (Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM in an included pocket computer which is connected by a physical cable) which enables processing on the headset, rather than relying on a smartphone. They have a powerful price, too: $3,000. Meta 1 glasses are expected to ship to developers only in February, then to the public in June. The company also hopes to have up to 300 apps available by launch.

Oakley Airwave 1.5

Sunglasses maker Oakley is also getting into the smart glasses game. Their $649 Airwave 1.5 product is optimized for use on the slopes while snowboarding or skiing. It gives route maps and current speed, and the battery is designed to withstand the cold. In fact, they're really ski goggles. On the plus side, they're also shipping.

Optinvent ORA-S AR

A company called Optinvent makes Android-based glasses the company claims give you a larger and brighter screen than Google Glass does. The sub-$1,000 product ships to developers in January with a $300 consumer version coming next summer, according to the company. The ORA-S has a comparable list of features to Glass, including support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a microphone, a speaker and a front-facing camera. One cool feature is something called "Flip-Vu," which enables you to position the display above, below or in the middle of your field of view -- or flip up the glass so everyone can see you're not using it.


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