The market for smart glasses is growing fast. Several companies are presenting their own hardware, aimed both at consumers and businesses. Application areas are still within exploration though and most companies recommend using their product within a limited setting.
Manufacturing, remote support, logistics, training, security, and healthcare are all areas where smart glasses are proven efficient. Glasses are also used in more cultural settings such as museum guidance.
What makes these areas suitable for the use of smart glasses is that the work performed follows step by step processes. This makes information presentation in relation to the working process easier to both display, and for the user to understand at a glance. In manufacturing, such as assembling, welding, painting or final product inspections, step by step instructions are presented in a similar manner as in the picking process. If more information is needed in a specific aseembling-situation, a serial number can be scanned to find out more.
Vuzix M300 - Good for industrial settings
But the possibilities of smart glasses go beyond those well-tested areas, with functionalities such as providing contextual information, having continuous access to files and notification alerts, managing phone calls, messages and, calendar. As well as taking photos, making video recordings and scanning of barcodes, which are functionalities manageable through the glass camera.
The main advantage over a mobile phone, computer or tablet is that the information is always available in front of the users’ eyes and available for hands-free interaction. In the end, only imagination limits the application areas.
“It’s like having your computer or smartphone screen information with you wherever you go” - Vuzix Blade
Developing for logistics, we have chosen to use Vuzix M300 glasses, due to their flexibility and robustness. Although these glasses are not suitable for all environments, they work well in a warehouse or manufacturing setting. When designing for other business areas one might find Google Glass Enterprise Edition more appealing, especially when interactions face to face are expected, like when meeting a doctor.
Google Glass - Appropriate in face to face interactions
Enterprise vs. consumer use
Smart glass developers have gained ground in enterprise settings and are now starting to expand into our day to day lives as well. Glasses targetting consumers, such as the Vuzix Blade, can be used with all kinds of mobile applications such as social media interaction, photography, filming and navigation. They provide music on the go, gameplay and video watching. The glasses enable overlaid information on real objects and can manage both indoor and outdoor light situations. The hardware, so far, only supports light augmented reality though, but in contrast to HoloLens, they can be worn during a long time without fatigue.
Vuzix Blade - Consumer directed
Although these consumer smart glasses are revolutionary in many ways, they still need to be coupled with a smartphone to draw information and enable settings. The privacy concerns are also a big issue, which was the top issue leading to the discontinuation of Google glass. Google glass has now been reintroduced, but in enterprise settings instead, where they can avoid these issues.
The usage areas of smart glasses are of course only limited by the hardware capabilities, and the hardware does not differ much between consumer and enterprise areas. That’s why we believe that the development still has some way to go before being able to offer a product fully suitable for consumer needs. Smart glasses are a great tool for the business areas presented earlier and will slowly conquer other business areas as well. But we still have some way to go before seeing people using them on the streets in everyday situations. There is a great need to keep up the development to get the hardware smaller, longer battery life, increased performance and, greater aesthetics. Solving how to interact with the glasses in an optimal way will be the next big step. Read about it in our next post.
Focals by North - Almost indistinguishable from ordinary glasses