In the past, we’ve covered several companies developing smart glasses for augmented reality (AR) and discussed the exciting ways that AR technology is being used to enhance everyday life. Since Google first announced their Google Glass project and gave us a glimpse of how the technology could change the way that we interact with the world around us, smart eye wear has caught the attention of the industry at large. Today there are many companies developing smart augmented reality glasses, each at different stages of the product development process.
Here is an complete list of all of the need-to-know smart eye wear companies to keep an eye on in 2017:
In January 2015, Microsoft announced their augmented reality smart glasses project, the Microsoft Hololens. Currently, the company only offers Development Edition ($3,000) and Commercial Suite ($5,000).
A recent eye-tracking patent filing by the company suggests that future versions of the Hololens may include the technology, which uses waveguides and infrared to track eye movement. The speculation has been that the patent could be used in Microsoft’s attempt find a solution to compatibility issues with prescription eyewear.
The company has been deliberately coy regarding the potential release timeline of the HoloLens. In a January 2015 interview with BBC, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that she saw the HoloLens project as a “five year journey,” but has made no further comments on potential release timelines. It is clear, however, that Microsoft will first focus on developmental releases and enterprise applications before setting their sights on a commercial HoloLens launch.
Osterhout Design Group (PRIVATE)
Osterhout Design Group’s (ODG) R-7 smart glasses have been impressive enough to help the company secure $58 million in Series A funding. The smart augmented reality glasses feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 2.7 GHz Quad-core Processor. ODG has set their sights on the enterprise market, having already partnered with companies like Advanced Medical Applications, Atheer, NuEyes, and Vital Enterprises to bring their glasses to the manufacturing, medical, transportation, and logistics industries.
Sony (NYSE: SNE)
Sony has been a leading company in the virtual reality industry, and have turned their attention toward augmented reality as well. In early 2015 the company released the Developer Edition of the Sony SmartEyeGlass, an augmented reality smart glasses device that was the company’s answer to Google Glass. The SmartEyeGlass includes a gyroscope, ambient light sensor, and built in camera.
Sony also offers a development edition of the SmartEyeGlass Attach, a product that is designed to bring smart features to typical prescription eyeglasses by attaching to the legs, featuring a 0.23 inch OLED display, 640 x 400 resolution and ARM processor. The company has been tight-lipped regarding potential release windows but are not expected to release their own smart devices anytime soon.
We wrote about Vuzix in September. The company was founded in 1997, focusing on the earliest applications of virtual reality. Vuzix debuted their initial public offering in 2010, and refocused their company in 2012 away from defense markets to consumer entertainment and enterprise. Their augmented reality glasses, the Vuzix M300, feature an Intel Atom processor and run Android 6.0. Vuzix is targeting enterprise applications for the M300, but is not ruling out a consumer-centric version of the product. The M300 will cost $1,499.
Jins Meme (PRIVATE)
Based in Tokyo, Jins first announced and demoed their smart glasses in 2015. The company wanted to create smart glasses that didn’t sacrifice fashion and functionality, while still delivering advanced features.
Jins has placed a lot of focus on developing the Meme as an academic resource, creating applications and adding features specifically for educational settings. The company has released two versions of the glasses, the Jins Meme ES, and Jins Meme MT, each coming with its own set of apps. Jins Meme smart glasses feature apps that are designed for specific activities such as walking, running, driving, and office work. Currently, the apps only work in Japan and anyone outside of Japan must apply to purchase a pair.
Recon Instruments (PRIVATE)
One of the most commonly cited use cases for smart glasses is for athletic performance tracking and training, which is exactly what the Recon Jet provides. The glasses are designed to fit securely on the face while walking, running, or biking. The glasses feature a 1 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, 1 GB SDRAM, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and pressure sensor, along with a widescreen 16:9 WQVGA display.
While exercising or playing sports, the glasses display information such as your current speed, distance traveled, current time, GPS information and other metrics that athletes would find useful. The Recon Jet is offered in several different styles and is available today for $499.
CastAR is an augmented reality company that was founded in February 2013, and has received $15 million in Series A funding to date. CastAR has focused more on commercial applications, aiming to bring complete, 3D holographic worlds to life on your desk or wall. The company has said that they hope to “transform everyday spaces into 3D digital playgrounds.”
CastAR was designed for the gaming market and hope to launch their device with “around 10 hours of entertainment ready-to-go” when the device goes on sale. Although the company has not announced a release date at this time, they have targeted a 2017 launch.
When you hear the name Epson, you probably think of printers. However, the company took a big step forward when they announced the Epson Moverio, their smart augmented reality glasses line. The company has announced three models, the most notable of which is the Epson Moverio BT-300. The device features a 9-axis motion sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer, as well as a camera and ambient light sensor. The company is currently developing for both commercial and enterprise applications.
None of the Epson Moverio models are currently available for purchase and the company has been tight-lipped about potential release timelines, although early models of the BT-300 were initially expected to be available for purchase in late 2016.
Meta aims to offer a complete augmented reality experience – allowing users to see, interact with, create, and move virtual objects and apps that interface with their real environment. The company was founded in December 2012 and has received $73 million through 4 rounds of funding. The company boasts an impressive list of investors that include the Vegas Tech Fund, Dolby, Comcast Ventures, and Y Combinator.
The Meta 2 stands out from other augmented reality smart glasses devices with it’s powerful specs. It features an Intel Core i7 CPU that is traditionally used for desktop PCs. It also offers 8 GB RAM, NVIDIA GTX 960 / AMD R9 280 graphics, and a 2550 x 1440 resolution with an impressive 90-degree field of view.
Meta has focused primarily on enterprise applications and now boasts a list of more than 1,000 developers and partnered companies currently using the device. You can buy the Meta 2 development kit today for $949.
LaForge Optical (PRIVATE)
LaForge Optical is a smart glasses company that focuses more on aesthetics than tech and functionality. Headquartered in Pasadena, CA, the company has received $1.63 million in two rounds of funding. LaForge’s current line of smart glasses, the LaForge Shima, are smart glasses that focus more on fashion and durability than delivering advanced features. Designed to be stylish, lightweight, and strong, the glasses feature a display that delivers notifications from smartphone apps directly to your field of vision. The LaForge Shima does not allow users to control the apps or interface with features directly through the glasses, and instead acts as a visual notification system, allowing users to be alerted to new calls, text messages, and drive with in-vision directions directly on the display.
Optinvent was founded in 2007 and is a company that focuses on disruptive near-to-eye projection displays and wearable tech. They are the developers of the Ora-2 Professional Smart Glass platform, smart glasses that run Android and feature a transparent retinal projection technology that provides a crisp display. The company has focused primarily on enterprise solutions, specifically targeting the manufacturing and logistics industries. The Ora-2 features a dual-core processor, camera, microphone, Bluetooth and GPS. Currently, the ORA-2 offers a number of applications that include location based services, maintenance, logistics, messaging, and situational awareness. You can buy the Optinvent Ora-2 today for around $725.
GlassUp is an augmented reality wearables company that is currently developing two lines of smart glasses for commercial and enterprise applications – the UNO and Factory 4.0. The GlassUp Uno uses Bluetooth to connect with your smartphone and translate information and notifications to their augmented reality display at a high resolution. The company was founded in October of 2012, and has received $1.56 million through 6 rounds of funding to date. They’ve also raised more than $127,000 in crowdfunding during their recent IndieGogo campaign.
Atheer is an augmented reality smart glasses company that has focused on creating enterprise-ready wearable devices for field engineers and deskless workers. The Atheer AiR Glasses are powered by Android, offer 3D gesture interaction, and boast an 8 hour battery life, allowing field workers to use them for a full shift. The company is currently partnered with Vuzix for hardware, but are transitioning into developing their own smart glasses.
Although we have yet to see the world set ablaze by wearable smart glasses, products like the ones mentioned in this article are a stepping stone to commercial and enterprise applications. Investors will want to keep an eye on these augmented reality smart glasses companies as we enter 2017 to see which ones start to establish meaningful market share.
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