Google Glass Gets Its First Challenge

Google Glass

The Sony Entertainment corporation looks set to give Google Glass its first challenge with the upcoming release of the “SmartEyeglass.” In direct competition with Google, Sony has revealed its own wearable technology, expected to go on sale by March 2015.

While Sony has been struggling with dwindling smartphone sales, the company has shown that it isn’t afraid to dive headfirst into a new concept. The SmartEyeglass will be demonstrated at the Osaka Marathon in October, where athletes will use the device to record and display running times, as well as access information on historical sites they pass during the race. The technology will even allow fans and supporters to send them encouraging messages via Twitter.

Just like Google Glass, Sony’s product is designed to provide the wearer with context-aware information exactly when they require it by utilizing built-in features such as a gyroscope, image sensor and electronic compass. It also comes with a 3 megapixel camera. The product uses “unique hologram optics display” which gives the wearer an 85% lens transparency and is designed to be readable in almost any environment.

SmartEyeglass is designed to be used with Android smartphones and tablets. While technically compatible with those operating on Android 4.1+, to make full use of the wearable camera, users will need to update to the more recent 4.3 release.

While clearly designed to give Google Glass its first major challenge, SmartEyeglass is still relatively new. Where Google has reportedly spent years developing and researching the practical applications of its wearable product, Sony is still working in the projects earlier stages. However, being behind does mean that Sony will be able to benefit from some of Google’s well known creativity and wearable technology concepts.

The biggest roadblock that both Google and Sony may face is aesthetics. A 2013 survey suggested that up to 90% of Americans were not interested in wearing Google Glass, simply because it looked unusual. Even if both products become affordable to the wider population they may struggle to generate sales.

Google Glass is leading the competition in that regard with several models, each more streamlined and less obtrusive than its Sony competitor. Currently the SmartEyeglass is still in the prototype stage and suffers from an external battery pack and microphone that users must wear somewhere on their persons. With the public’s less than enthusiastic reaction to Google’s relatively inconspicuous product, it seems Sony will have to dramatically reduce the size of the SmartEyeglass if it hopes to gain any popularity at all.

However, Google Glass went on sale for a single day in April this year, where the product sold out. While Google did not release any sales figures, the results do suggest that Americans are warming to the idea of wearable technology.

Regardless of public opinion, Sony looks set to give Google Glass its first major challenge in the wearable technology market. The company is not backing down and has recently released the “Smart Eyeglass Software Development Kit.” This kit allows developers to create their own apps for the Sony product, while showing off some other potential uses for the wearable tech, such as heads-up walking directions or the ability to view player statistics during live sports matches.

By Mathew Channer

The Japan Times

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