Smart Glasses Finding Work Across Industries

When it comes to the Internet of Things, smart glasses have the potential to deliver big benefits to enterprise users.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 06, 2015

At this week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, a number of companies are demonstrating wearable electronics in a smart glasses form factor. Manufacturers are marketing these glasses as a natural platform for watching movies, playing interactive video games or providing a means for delivering driving directions. They are trying to both riff off and one-up the seminal smart glasses in the consumer realm: Google Glass. (A note on semantics: The smart glasses described in this article are sometimes also called augmented-reality glasses. Augmented reality denotes the overlay of digital information atop a wearer's field of vision, whereas virtual-reality glasses, such as those made by Oculus Rift, completely alter a wearer's field of vision.)

Osterhout Design Group (ODG) is one such company. The San Francisco-based company, which was founded in 1999 as a technology incubator but is now focused solely on developing wearable technology, is debuting prototype smart glasses for consumers at CES, which the firm says should be available this year for "under $1,000." By fashioning them after the classic Ray-Ban WayFarer sunglasses, the company hopes to appeal to consumers who find the Google Glass aesthetically unappealing but still crave the many bells and whistles the glasses provide.

ODG's consumer prototype smart glasses
The prototype is a pared-down version of the R-6 and R-6S smart glasses that ODG already sells, and which are packed with an impressive battery of technologies: five sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, altitude and humidity sensors); three communication radios (Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi and GNSS receiver); stereoscopic see-through displays; up to 64 gigabytes of storage and the ability to accommodate corrective lenses. According to ODG's website, the company is selling its R-6 and R-6S (which has more computing power than the R-6, thanks to a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor) to "pre-approved government and enterprise customers and developers." The ODG glasses run on the Android operating system.

But ODG is one of many manufacturers that are making smart glasses for commercial applications. The glasses' see-through displays allow workers to toggle their gaze between information displayed on the lens and the environment around them. This can be used for applications that aid workers in repairing specialized machinery. Instructions can be sent to the wearer's glasses via an Internet or intranet link, and might take the form of both text- and audio-based (via an integrated speaker) audio directives. This allows an employee to keep both hands free to work on the machine.

Atheer Labs, based in Mountain View, Calif., is developing a range of smart glass products and platforms that integrate 3D imaging and gesture-based software interaction. Known as the Augmented Interactive Reality (AiR) platform, it includes glasses built into industry-specific form factors—such as ones that are integrated into a safety helmet for use at construction sites and other industrial zones. Atheer Labs is also developing smart glasses for health-care applications—including glasses designed to help surgeons read a patient's medical record or view saved scans or other images without having to leave the surgical bay.

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