When Google Glass started shipping to early adopters in 2013, it spawned countless think pieces about how this was either the next step in human evolution or the downfall of society. As it turns out, it was neither. Google ended up abandoning the pricey hardware as a consumer-focused gadget, and we’ve seen only a few swings at the mainstream market. But looking forward, there’s bound to be another major attempt at supplementing our typical vision.
While Google Glass utterly failed as a consumer device, its second life as an industrial tool makes a lot of sense. As such, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the design and construction fields push the tech forward for the foreseeable future. And eventually, full-bore augmented reality will be small and cheap enough to be implemented in glasses that don’t look meaningfully different from what’s commonplace now.
For the last couple of years, Microsoft has been working on AR goggles called HoloLens. And while it’s still fairly work-focused for the time being, it’s abundantly clear that Redmond sees the tech that drives HoloLens as the future of consumer devices.
If you want your own pair of these specs, you’ll need to lay down $3,000 for the development edition or $5,000 for the commercial suite. Considering that Google Glass launched at $1,500 for “Explorers,” it’s clear that we’re not even close to mainstream yet. Still, this tech is much more robust than the tiny display built into Glass.
Magic Leap, considered borderline vaporware by some, recently unleashed its SDK unto the world. And since we just got a look at the goggles and accessories a few months back, it seems like we’re heading toward a launch of some sort.
With well over a billion dollars raised, it’s clear that the devs are taking this mixed reality headset seriously. It seems unlikely that we’ll have consumer-ready models any time soon, but it seems there’s some actual progress for this long-awaited device.
As it stands, the really meaningful wearable tech is too expensive, bulky, and conspicuous. That baggage is what kept Google Glass from being accepted, so we’re in a bit of a holding pattern right now. Until the glasses look indistinguishable from the likes of Ray-Ban or Warby Parker, smart glasses of any kind aren’t going to take off as mainstream gear.
If full-on augmented or mixed reality goggles are a logical extension of smart glasses, the next step would clearly be smart contact lenses. There’s been talk about specific designs for medical applications for years now, and there’s been some developments recently on that front.
But as far as contacts that are self-contained, and capable of giving you a heads-up display, we’re not there yet – not even close. Cramming in circuitry and a power source into something that needs to fit comfortably on your eyeball without obstructing your vision is a very heavy lift for engineers. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed for a big breakthrough in miniaturization.
[Image credit: Loic Le Meur, Edited]