Sony focuses on Google Glass alternative

  • AFP
  • Updated: Sep 20, 2014 16:57 IST

Move over Google, Sony has its own take on smart glasses and is aiming to get them to market by March 2015.

Officially announced for developers on Friday and called "SmartEyeglass," the augmented reality headset won't win any fashion prizes, but they could be lauded for their ‘holographic' display technology.

Google Glass uses a prism positioned above the eye to project information just above the wearer's natural field of vision. Wearing the glasses and accessing the display has been likened to using a rear-view mirror while driving, and a common complaint from new users is eye ache and headache as a result.

Sony's glasses have lenses instead that are 85 % transparent and which incorporate clever hologram optic technology so that information can be directly overlaid within the wearer's direct field of vision to augment the object, point of interest or even person he or she is looking at.

Sony claims that the images and text are not distracting and will be easy to view in a host of environments.

As well as smart, albeit monochrome, lenses -- Sony is forsaking a color display for the moment to improve battery life -- the smart glasses have a high-quality image sensor, a 3-megapixel camera, integrated accelerometer, gyroscope, electronic compass and a microphone and connect wirelessly to an Android smartphone.

However, unlike Google Glass, where the device's control pad and microphone are integrated into the frame, Sony has decided to put the controls and mic in a separate, wired, hand-held unit which also contains a rather hefty battery.

To get as many developers as possible excited about the headset and its potential uses, Sony is rather smartly offering access to an emulator that will give app makers a virtual sense of how SmartEyeglass works, meaning that they won't have to buy a developer's version of the headset. However, developer versions will be on sale before the end of the year. From there, Sony hopes to get a prototype version on sale by March.

That's a very tight timetable. Google Glass has been in testing since April 2012 and has been available to developers since 2013. And while the headset is now on sale in the US and UK it is still very much in developer, rather than final consumer, form.

That doesn't mean that Sony's headset is destined to fall short. The company offered a quick demo of the glasses back in January at the International CES and again at IFA in Germany earlier this month and the improvements were already noticeable.

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