New wearable era goes way beyond Glass

Posted on March 26, 2014

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Wearable technology will be the next big mobile gadget explosion but many people may not be aware of the competitors to Google Glass. There are a multitude of companies producing headsets for the tech savvy professional, not all with video recording capability, but some of the options available in interactive eyewear are intriguing.

Epiphany eyewear

Eyewear Epiphany
Epiphany smart glasses are the baby of Vergence Labs. These tech specs are deliberately molded to fit the designer glasses market. Even the double ‘E’ logo looks a little like the meeting of Gucci’s double ‘G’ and the Chanel trademark. Housed inside the leg of these chic but geek glasses is a mobile computer and up to 32Gb of solid state storage along with a HD digital video camera and wide angle lens. Functions are accessed via a tactile button.

Vergence has developed a cloud-based eco-system to go with Epiphany’s video recording capability that allows you to save to the device plus its dedicated channel YouGen.tv, the web and social media. Video is recorded in 720p HD and can be recorded or streamed. Concentrating on visual appeal and wearability for Epiphany has allowed the makers to undermine the ‘life in a lens’ nature of Glass in favour of a simpler and more urbane wearable tech experience. As computing and components shrink in size the company could be well placed to exploit better functionality in future, while Glass may be a touch too ‘Trekky’ to look really cool.

Forget the aesthetics
Vuzix meanwhile has gone for ‘practical’ over ‘beautiful’ in a big way. This Android powered headset is, quite honestly, a bit ugly with its chunky monocular display. It can record HD video, manage your calendar and connect to your smartphone, plus it is compatible with hundreds of apps and has its own developer kit. The M100 has 4Gb of Flash memory and 1Gb of RAM and interfaces with your phone using WiFi or Bluetooth.

Vuzix M100

A full colour display is projected into a tiny colour display that sits just in front of your eye. All sorts of augmented reality applications are promised by Vuzix and a hands-free experience, but critics point to the device’s lack of streamlining and advance reports talk of poor image quality so a little fine-tuning could be on the cards before it becomes a hit with the tech crowd.

Jet power
Recon Instruments meanwhile is aiming at a different demographic with its Jet headset. Athletic and sports performance are paramount to the Jet. It has a built-in altimeter, 3D accelerometer and thermometer to detect conditions and will connect to popular heart monitors and cadence sensors to give an all-round picture for cyclists and other athletes.

Recon_Jet_Black

Connectivity for smartphone will allow users to hook up to their life apps as the headset runs Android as its operating system. In effect the device comes as three components – battery pack, glasses and display/computing unit. Battery life will depend on which features and sensors are used but the computing unit has plenty of guts to handle information with a 1GHz processor on board. There is a 720p HD camera available, plus connectivity through WiFi, Bluetooth and ANT+ (a wireless sensor network technology). Glasses come in various types and colours and upgrades promise better specifications. All round an interesting addition to the wearable family.

French vision
Gallic startup Optinvent has come through with the ORA-S, termed a “hands free wireless see-through wearable display platform” by the Rennes-based company. Glasses use a patented ‘Clear Vu’ display engine that includes GPS location services, mobile apps, messaging and sports applications. They can be connected to a smartphone or tablet for handsfree browsing in ‘Flip Vu’ mode so the user can see a virtual image in their line of sight.

Specifications include a front-facing camera, 9-axis motion sensor, ambient light sensor, microphone, loudspeaker and high capacity rechargeable battery. ORA-S will launch with the Wikitude augmented reality browser as standard. The on-board camera only has a 5MP sensor on it but promises 1080p video and has a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex dual-core chip with 1Gb DDR RAM and 4Gb Flash memory.

Prescription strength
LaForge Optical has chosen to focus on creating a practical alternative to the smart glasses flooding the market with frames that accept prescription lenses called Icis. Users will typically try on a pair of ‘dumb’ frames to begin with that can then be fitted with a lens to suit. A smartphone connection will then allow users to pick up notifications using LaForge’s ‘SocialFlo’ app, including messages, tweets and turn-based directions from a map app. A premium version of the frames – Icis Bold – will also include a camera, microphone and speaker.

LaForge launched its ambitious rival to Glass on finance kickstart platform Indiegogo and then pulled it after receiving seed money from a private investor, said venturebeat.com. Read LaForge’s about page please, it is unintentionally hilarious and Brian Vanger’s profile picture with a Thor hammer made me snort with laughter.

weon_02

Are WeON?
Changing the name pre-release from ION to WeON, this could be a company offering a great, cheap alternative to Glass. WeON, like LaForge, will offer a prescription lens version of their smart glasses product. The focus is more on smartphone control rather than onboard computing power and that explains the reduced cost (the basic frames were priced at $99).

You choose which apps to accept alerts from on your phone or tablet and can then connect to its other functions such as camera, video recorder and voice recorder, or music player via Bluetooth. A more stylish, cheaper and less obvious version of wearable tech than most.

vio pov

Advanced POV
A step removed from smart glasses, the VIO-POV camera is worth a mention here. It’s a rugged and adaptable point of view camera that falls somewhere between a wearable headset and the GoPro Hero. Plainly a camera rather than a smart device the VIO system has a number of body mounts and other accessories (including a microphone) that could be used in a number of ways. I’ve not managed to get my hands on any review kit yet (fingers crossed) but it looks like it could be used for making POV documentary film or potentially news or feature filming, though the company advertises it as one for tactical policing or high intensity sports.

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