Sony announces SmartGlasses, joins Google and Microsoft in augmented reality market

Sony announced last week that it will release Android-compatible ‘smart glasses’ in March. Called, perhaps unsurprisingly, SmartGlasses, the augmented reality head gear is being released as a developer edition for $840, which is about half of what Google was selling Glass for.

Sony SmartGlasses

Google has pulled Glass from production, and handed the project to Nest’s  Tony Fadell, who is generally considered the godfather of the iPod (see Google Glass isn’t dead, it’s going to be Nestified). My bet is that he’ll relaunch with something that is more industrial, more enterprisey, and less controversial.

Sony is also joining Microsoft in the smart glasses game. Microsoft announced its holographic head gear, Hololens, in January. Hololens is not intended for persistent use, but is more likely to be used for a specific activity for a short time, like holographic manipulation of rendered objects for gaming or design.

Microsoft Hololens

Sony’s device is unlike Google Glass: low resolution monochrome imagery is overlaid on the glasses’ interior lens, not projected onto the users eye. The lenses are 85% transparent, so the wearer’s surroundings are quite visible. Also, the glasses’ information is controlled by an external controller that includes microphone, speakers and NFC. The device has bluetooth and Wifi connectivity, and can link with smartphone for GPS data. There is also a 3 megapixel camera, accelerometer and gyroscope.

Sony’s obviously hoping to attract developers to build applications for the device, and grow the market for its use. This is not the company’s first smart glass effort. The company demoed the ‘SmartEyeglass Attach!’ prototype at CES, a model that is more like Google Glass in design, with a OLED microdisplay.

I still believe strongly that there is a huge market for AR smart glasses in the business setting, for many disciplines, like medical, security, military, manufacturing, field engineering, construction, etc. One sign of that is the proliferation of devices, and Microsoft Sony’s newest entries are more proof of that.