Next big trend in tech: Smart glasses

Facebook is working with Ray-Ban to produce smart glasses by 2025.

Consumer tech giants have tipped off the next big trend in the sector. Smart glasses are the product of the future, promising wearers hands-free access to the internet. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple have already jumped into the race.

Many believe that smart glasses could replace phones in the future. It’s conceivable that these devices could even become the primary means through which we consume digital information and entertainment. The challenge lies in developing prototypes that mainstream consumers can both afford and, more importantly, want to wear (gotta keep that style fresh).

Most smart glasses available today are clunky and expensive. While some offer AR and VR capabilities, the technology is far beyond the needs of the average person. Still, smart glasses will likely follow a similar trend to mobile phone technology—which took many years to reach near-universal adoption.

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Smart Glasses Proving Their Value in Commercial Use

The biggest brands in the consumer technology space have already invested significant time and money into smart glasses. Companies are hanging their hats on different features and capabilities depending on where they see the most value and potential for differentiation. Many are focusing on commercial applications initially as the technology continues to improve.

For example, Microsoft’s smart glasses are designed primarily to support VR and AR for business use cases. Last week, the company began selling its HoloLens 2 headset for $3,500. It offers a larger field of vision than its predecessor as well as new gesture tracking. Wearers can access menus and grab and drag objects in virtual environments. 

Google’s smart glasses are also intended for commercial use. After an unsuccessful consumer-focused launch, Google Glass is now used primarily used to support hands-free work. The glasses enable wearers to access training videos, open QA checklists, and much more so that they can perform their duties more efficiently. 

Gaining Traction with Everyday Consumers

On the consumer side, Snap launched its Spectacles 3 glasses this week and is targeting them at Snapchat users. Wearers can take photos and videos on the move and add effects in the Snapchat app. Although no digital information is available through the glasses, the company is reportedly working on adding AR capabilities in the future.

Facebook’s Oculus headset is a popular virtual reality gaming device that recently surpassed $100 million in revenue. The product is available for $399 or $499 depending on the memory specs. Looking ahead, Facebook is partnering with Luxottica, the company that owns Ray-Ban, to develop stylish AR glasses. 

In October, Amazon announced the Echo Frames, which will allow wearers to communicate with Alexa on the go. Rather than jumping straight to AR or VR, the company is instead expanding slightly beyond its portfolio of smart speakers to ease consumers into the idea of tech-infused glasses. 

AR and VR Today

Virtual and augmented reality have been on people’s minds for a long time. Sci-fi movies have given us glimpses into what it may look like once these technologies have been integrated into our lives. Only recently have AR and VR become effective and accessible for mass consumption.

There are countless examples of AR and VR in use today. Snapchat and Instagram, two of the most popular social media platforms in the world, rely on AR and artificial intelligence to layer dog faces and hilarious filters over real images. Pokémon Go changed the world in 2016 when it allowed users to capture Pokémon in the “real world.”

Although we are still a few years out from large-scale smart glasses adoption, the micro-doses of VR and AR we receive in day-to-day life are preparing us for the future.