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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.

ION Glasses

ION Glasses are crowd-funded glasses that look like ordinary sunglasses ($99) or prescription glasses ($79 for the frame), but have a blinking light in your peripheral vision and sound to alert you to incoming messages or other events on your smartphone. You can program it with colors so that, for example, a blue light means a Facebook message and a red one means a Google+ notification. It also lets you control a PowerPoint presentation, and will alert you if your smartphone is out of range. The company expects to ship in February.

Recon Jet

Android-based Recon Jet glasses are expected in September but the company will take your $599 now. Unlike Google Glass, Recon shows you the screen at the bottom of your vision. It's got an HD video camera and microphone and pairs with your smartphone. Recon Jet is optimized for sports, and an early app tracks speed and other data useful for athletics. The company offers an SDK for developers.

Vuzix M100

Vuzix's smart glasses have an important feature that Google does not offer: It's shipping now to consumers -- sort of. For about $999, Vuzix will sell you its M100 glasses. (They're backlogged, though, so expect a few weeks for delivery.) The M100 runs Android, and offers a 5MP camera, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, a speaker and microphone and many of the other features found in Google Glass.

Atheer Glasses

Another crowd-funded project from a Silicon Valley-based company called Atheer is expected to result in relatively low-cost 3D smart glasses, one costing $850 for developers and shipping in a few months, and another priced at $350 for consumers and expected to ship "late next year." Atheer has two screens for 3D input and two cameras for in-air gesture control.

Technical Illusions CastAR

Technical Illusions' CastAR augmented reality glasses use two screens to create 3D views of data and objects. It's especially optimized for gaming where the virtual objects look like they exist as holograms in the real world. Unusually, the company uses RFID tracking to interact with physical gaming objects. The company is in its early stages, and raised $1.5 million on Kickstarter. Their web site says they intend to ship to consumers "sometime in 2014."

Icis

Icis "smartspecks" are designed to look and work like regular glasses (in three styles and they fit prescription lenses), but they connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. They're optimized for social network notifications and turn-by-turn directions, taking pictures and video and more. The pre-beta product is expected in "mid-2014" for $400 a pair.

Lumus DK-40

Lumus has been in the heads-up display business for years (mostly for the military). Now the company is getting into the consumer smart glasses racket. Lumus DK-40 smart glasses, which run Android, are expected to debut with an SDK at CES next month but won't ship to developers until the end of the first quarter. They're also seeking out OEMs to manufacture them.

 

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