Plenty of companies have had ambitions to put a computer on your face, but few have managed to produce a workable prototype. Even fewer have sold them to consumers. Vuzix, which has been making enterprise-focused augmented reality glasses for years, has finally launched a consumer version called the Vizix Blade. They mostly look like regular glasses, but the lenses include a smart heads-up display powered by Vuzix’s custom software and Amazon Alexa.
Vuzix demoed the Blade augmented reality (AR) glasses at CES last year, and the final product is on sale just in time for this year’s show. However, you’re just pre-ordering the glasses. For $1,000, you can secure a pair of glasses for delivery in 4-6 weeks. You get access to the Blade Developer Center immediately. That includes support forums and documentation to make apps. Vuzix seems to expect aspiring developers to be the primary audience for this first run, but anyone can buy and use the Blade smart glasses.
The Blade smart glasses look like a standard pair of sunglasses at first glance, but the longer you look, the more apparent it becomes these are something more. The frame is a bit on the chunky side, and the temples are extremely tall to accommodate the electronics and batteries. You might also notice the small optical projector and camera peeking out at the edge of the lens.
Vuzix says it has several hundred developers ready to churn out apps for the Blade smart glasses, but it will have Amazon Alexa out of the box. It uses the Alexa Smart Screen SDK, so it’s like having a tiny Echo Show floating in front of your face. Alexa already has a ton of skills that will work with the Blade, as long as you don’t mind using mostly voice input (there’s also a touchpad on the temple for app control). It works standalone over Wi-Fi, but Vuzix expects most people to pair it with a phone.
The most well-known smart glasses are also the most public flop: Google Glass. Announced in 2013 at Google I/O, Glass produced a small floating display in the corner of the wearer’s visual field. It could run apps, capture videos, offer directions, and more. Glass was interesting, but Google failed to account for the creepy factor or pointing a camera at everyone you met. Glass was also just not very useful.
Vuzix thinks it can pick up where Glass left off. So, is augmented reality is finally ready for prime time? It’ll cost you a thousand bucks to find out. The Blade is compatible with prescription lenses, but that will add to the already high cost.
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