Sony Corp on Tuesday began taking orders for SmartEyeglass Internet-linked eyewear, moving ahead in the market as Google Inc steps back to revise its Glass strategy.
The offering from the Japanese consumer electronics comes amid growing interest in wearable computing, but also questions about whether consumers will warm to connected eyewear.
SmartEyeglass connects with smartphones and then superimposes text, images or other information onto whatever real scene is in view.
A version of the eyewear tailored for software developers is to be made available in Japan, Germany, Britain and the US on March 10. The price in the US will be US$840. In Europe it will be 670 euros (US$763) plus applicable taxes. SmartEyeglass for enterprises will also be available in March in France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere.
Along with the hardware, Sony plans to release an upgraded software development kit “to tap into the ingenuity of developers to improve upon the user experience that the SmartEyeglass provides.”
Sony is encouraging software makers to develop fun, hip or functional applications for SmartEyeglass so people will be enticed to buy the eyewear on track for commercial release next year
Sony said that it “has its eyes set on the future of wearable devices and their diversifying use cases, and it hopes to tap into the ingenuity of developers to improve upon the user experience that the SmartEyeglass provides.”
The company said it sees a wide range of uses for the eyewear, beyond the obvious display of information at eye level without having to turn attention to another device.
It sees “considerable implications for AR [augmented reality], which holds great potential in the domain of professional use as well, such as when giving instructions to workers at a manufacturing site or when transmitting visual information to security officers about a potential breach,” the Sony statement said.
Seiko Epson Corp also projects sales of its smart glasses to climb fivefold to ￥10 billion (US$84 million) in three years, president Minoru Usui said in an interview on Tuesday with Bloomberg. The company, based north of Tokyo in Nagano, allows users to access information and documents on the lens, leaving their hands free.
Seiko Epson employs high-precision sensors already in use in its projectors for its Moverio smart glass, which is targeted at professionals such as engineers and doctors, Usui said.
“When these devices become the size of a regular pair of glasses, you will see sales surge, but it will take a while,” said Usui, 59. “There is no doubt that 10 years from now everyone will be using something like that.”
It took Seiko Epson about two-and-a-half years from initiating research into the glasses to selling the first product. The second model sells for about US$660.
Japanese companies see an opportunity to build the smart glasses into a success, Google last month decided to halt sales of its Internet-linked eyewear Glass, but insisted the technology would live on in a future consumer product.
The technology titan put brakes on an “explorer” program that let people interested in dabbling with Glass buy eyewear for US$1,500 apiece.
Microsoft Corp last month introduced HoloLens eyewear that may hit a sweet spot between Google Glass and virtual reality headgear, immersing users in a mesmerizing world of augmented reality holograms.
Microsoft executives said the holographic capabilities built into Windows 10 operating software — to be released late this year — would open doors for developers to augment tasks from complex surgery to motorcycle design.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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