Where Are My Smart Glasses?
A Review of All 6 Smart Glasses On The Market
I have been waiting six years for smart glasses.
This is not an exaggeration. As a high schooler, I somehow convinced my parents that I had a legitimate business use for Google Glass and really needed a pair.
It ended up sucking. Perhaps if it didn’t suck, I could have come up with an app to sell over their ecosystem, but it did suck. The screen was highly visible — a plus! — but had so few pixels that it wasn’t able to display more than a few words. This made it useless for just about everything, including previewing text messages.
A little while after that, I stumbled upon the LaForge website. The pictures make them seem like the smart glasses of my dreams. To a bystander, they look like normal glasses. To someone wearing them, they’re a HUD for real life.
But… six years later, and they’re still not in production. Their beta is publicly available, but I’ve messed with enough beta hardware to know I’m not cut out for it. So the question is: when am I going to get smart glasses? When are you going to get smart glasses?
Well, if any of us are going to get smart glasses anytime soon, here’s where they’re going to come from:
Yes, you can still get Google Glass, if you’re an enterprise. (Although, now it’s just Glass). But I wouldn’t recommend it.
LaForge Optical, $590
They look cool as can be. Their software looks like it has great potential. But they’ve been in pre-production for six years, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.
From first glance, these appear to be a Glass competitor. They look ridiculous, and are used mainly for very specific engineering applications. Not a daily-wear pair like we’re looking for.
Vue makes normal-looking smart glasses. However, Vue doesn’t have the HUD I’m imagining when I think of smart glasses; they’ve got integrated speakers, take calls, and announce things to me, but they don’t actually use the lens as a display. Vue, instead, seems to be the product of your glasses merged with your Apple AirPods (and maybe some Apple Watch features, since it tracks your steps). No HUD of the future.
Snap, Inc. Spectacles, $199
They’re a spectacle, all right. They’re the kind of glasses you could only get away with wearing if you have a personality big enough to support cat-eye sunglasses.
Ostensibly, they’re made for Snapchat use. They are made by Snap Inc, after all, Snapchat’s parent company. I can’t possibly imagine using Snapchat enough to wear glasses specifically for it, but I know there are all kinds.
That said, these look interesting for one specific application: A lifestyle YouTuber. For people who make their living filming their fabulous lives, the Spectacles seem perfect. They never need to be caught without their GoPros again. They can only film up to thirty seconds a time, though, so I wonder how much that would get in the way. At only $200 though, it might be worth it to find out.
Focals by North $999
They have a HUD! And they wouldn’t trigger the curiosity of passerby! They’re shipping in 2019!
They have a weird accessory called the loop. It’s essentially a ring with a joystick that you use to control the interface. It intrigues me, though, because it adds a lot more potential for navigating the interface. Most smart glasses have only swiping back and forth on both sides and taps on both sides as their navigational gestures, and they don’t always register correctly. It’s hard to make truly capable hardware with a hamstrung navigational system.
Admittedly, functionality is thin on the ground for $999 — it only has a handful of notifications, for instance. But the concept of smart glasses is so cool to me that I might just buy them anyway. Ah, the costs of being an early adopter.