November 7, 2017
Smart Glasses: use cases, challenges and future potential
Smart glasses, the eyewear technology that layers information onto a user’s field of view, started off operating as simple front-end displays but have been progressing towards being able to perform complex computer powered tasks. This steady improvement in processing performance is, consequently, making this wearable device prove its worth in the market.
Differing from the 100% immersive virtual reality headsets, smart glasses give users a sense of both physical and digital worlds simultaneously, providing a much more natural experience. This is done through either an Optical Head-Mounted Display (OHMD), Augmented Reality (AR) technology, or through Heads Up Display Glasses (HUD).
Despite its continuous growth and valuable potential in the enterprise and industrial sectors, these wearable computer glasses still have a few challenges to overcome before reaching mass-market usage.
Facing a defining moment, smart glasses companies are fighting hard to maintain and expand their ground. Even though businesses are finding great workflow solutions through eyewear technology, the general public will still have to wait a little longer to reap the benefits of mass-accessibility and usage.
However, be not mistaken, the promising general public consumer sector is not being neglected. Quite the contrary. It happens that in order to eventually reach mass market usage, manufacturers must first overcome the challenge of achieving a harmonious balance between functionality and wearability at an accessible cost.
High-performing smart glasses tend, currently, to be bulky and stand at a price range that is still not convincing (nor fashionable) enough for social day-to-day usage.
Fashionable pieces, on the other hand, have to sacrifice performance to get a sleeker look and still tend to keep a higher price range.
Affordable pieces, furthermore, will lack in either functionality, wearability or both. You get the picture.
Despite these challenges, there are many smart glasses in circulation today providing great value to various users. Below, we will cover a few highly-rated devices, followed by successful use case applications.
This see-through safety enhanced device enables remote assistance and digital checklists, training and maintenance tools used in a variety of environments from energy to healthcare to manufacturing and maintenance.
“Heads up, hands-free digital information at the ready to improve speed, accuracy, and efficiency.”
Supported by Wikitude: optimized ODG SDK
A lightweight eyewear device that contains a front-facing camera and motion tracker as well as a display on each lens. Suitable for entertainment, manufacturing, medical science and more.
“The BT-200 is a premier development platform for apps of the future and hands-free scenarios, delivering large, 2D or 3D images, front and center — virtually anywhere!”
Supported by Wikitude: optimized Epson SDK
This Android-based wearable device which includes a monocular display and onboard processor provides most features and capabilities of a modern smartphone (minus a cellular radio). Can be used for a wide variety of enterprise applications.
“Hands-free access to data, direct and remote video capabilities, direct onboard processing of video capture for lag-free Augmented Reality (AR) and more.”
Supported by Wikitude: optimized Vuzix SDK
Since no plugs, computers, or wires are needed, this AR headset offers an alternative way to interact with holographic images. Users need only to start the Mira app on their smartphone and place it on the headset.
“True augmented reality, powered by your smartphone.”
To be supported by Wikitude: optimized Mira Prisma SDK
The HoloLens has specialized components, such as multiple sensors, advanced optics, and a custom holographic processing unit that enables users to move freely while interacting with holograms. With an HPU that makes light work of processing a large amount of data per second, it claims to contain more processing power than the average laptop.
“Holograms are the next evolution in computing. With this vision in mind, hardware, software, and design came together to create the first fully self-contained, holographic computer“.
Better than knowing what a specific device can or cannot do, the greater question, in practice, is what are some of the solutions smart glasses can provide? What is actually stirring the computerized eyewear market right now?
The most prominent application for smart glasses today is most definitely video collaboration. The ability to work together with experts remotely in a see-what-I-see system is improving many sectors across the board. Ranging from regular field service check-ups to complex engineering support, telemedicine and intricate procedures, this remote assistance possibility is making more and more companies incorporate this eyewear technology solution.
Assembly lines are all about speed, productivity, accuracy, compliance and quality control. Which happen to be the exact areas in which smart glasses can deliver. Since every detail counts, automotive and aerospace manufacturers are implementing the use of eyewear devices to bring real-time solutions to the plant floor.
Logistics and Warehousing
While keeping their hands free and receiving directions and visual cues directly in their field of view, warehouse workers can easily locate, collect, and deliver items with ease. Smart glasses are also substituting handheld devices, scanners and paper and as a result employees are increasing productivity while decreasing errors and subsequent costs.
Building and Construction
By using smart glasses (or smart hard hats) construction workers experience a safer, more productive hands-free workflow. Structural inspections and errors can also be more accurately held and corrected through remote solutions offered in real-time.
Even though the consumer market still has much to grow, various use cases are being applied today. Visitors experiences are being enhanced in museums though AR guides. Theaters are relying on eyewear to provide instant subtitling to their guests. Tourists can easily find their way around through projected navigation directions and reviews. Athletes can have access to real-time speed, power, distance and other indications. Drone pilots can conveniently see their drone’s field of view. All important and worthy niches, even though far from mass adoption.
Even though, as mentioned above, the general public widespread usage still remains on hold, smart glasses have found valuable areas to operate, develop and grow. So valuable that it is not surprising to hear that tech giants such as Apple, Facebook and Samsung are working on AR powered smart glasses of their own.
The current use of smart glasses is convincing more and more forward-thinking businesses to hop on board. For those who are still not convinced, let’s take a look at the potential this technology has in store.
If you are reading this tech-oriented blog, chances are you have probably watched the sci-fi movie classic “The Matrix”. To better understand how much a business could benefit from highly efficient smart glasses spread out through their workforce, think about the “I know Kung-Fu” scene in which Keanu Reaves, AKA Neo – the Chosen One, has knowledge uploaded directly into his brain.
Backing up into our real world, alternatively, imagine being able to update the knowledge you need directly to an eyewear database. In other words, imagine a hands-free workforce that has instant access to targeted knowledge directly in their field of view. Such an implementation would ultimately increase quality control, improve maintenance, provide faster and more reliable solutions, save money on management and trainings, facilitate remote assistance…just to name a few.
From the looks of it, we probably won’t be seeing smart glasses for mass consumers anytime soon (or at least until Apple releases something nice). But, until then, this eyewear technology will continue doing its magic behind the curtains hidden in facilities, warehouses and on construction sites worldwide.
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