Vuzix Corporation today announced that it has begun shipping M100 Smart Glasses to the first of its Gold developer partners — enabling them to start creating and testing their apps on the real hardware.
The M100 Smart Glasses are a smart hands-free display and communications device for mobile data access, once paired to a smartphone and connected to the Internet. The glasses include an integrated head tracker and GPS for spatial and positional awareness.
Vuzix is a supplier of Video Eyewear products in the consumer, commercial and entertainment markets.
The M100 is in competition — and a race to market — with Google Glass, a similar wearable device. Google recently held a contest to provide sample sets of the glasses to non-developers willing to pay $1,500 — which encouraged Internet and media buzz.
Google Glass could be released to the mass market by the end of the year. Google Inc. already sold an unspecified number of the glasses to developers who also paid $1,500 apiece at a company conference in June 2012. The mass-market version of Google Glass is expected to cost less than $1,500, but more than a smartphone.
Like the M100, Google Glass is intended to perform many of the same tasks as smartphones. The glasses include a little display screen attached to a rim above the right eye, run on Google’s Android operating system, and respond to voice commands, which is intended to make it easier for people to take pictures or record video wherever they might be (such as skydiving or riding a rollercoaster). Here is a video showing the glasses in action:
When he demonstrated the glasses at last June’s company conference, Google co-founder Sergey Brin acknowledged the company was still working out bugs and trying to figure out how to extend the product’s battery life.
Privacy Concerns. The ease of taking pictures and recording video with the glasses is causing some to question whether privacy will be affected. zdnet blogger Ben Woods writes, “These glasses can instantly capture and store every move of everyone around the person wearing them. Remember that drunken argument you had with your partner? Well, now Google Glass will mean you have no possibility of forgetting it. If it’s entertaining enough, or you’re well-known enough, the video of that argument could well be on YouTube before you get home. Do you do a lot of business on the phone while out and about or while sitting in coffee shops? Will you continue to, if you know that every call could be recorded by the stranger sitting at the table opposite, staring innocently at the picture on the wall behind your head?”
Google first began developing the glasses in 2010 as part of a secretive company division now known as Google X.
Vuzix Showstopper. Displayed at Mobile World Congress in February as a “Showstopper,” the M100 contains a near-eye micro display with an integrated camera and powerful processor running an Android OS. It connects wirelessly to a user’s smartphone (iOS or Android) or other compatible device via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, can connect directly to the Internet, and run applications and games on its own. Working in harmony with a user’s smartphone, the M100 enables access to a vast array of existing and future text, video, GPS, and audio applications, Vuzix said.
With the glasses, users can answer the phone using a visual address book, record video and run applications, including basic augmented reality apps. Interactive tracking and an integrated camera, combined with newly developed applications on the M100 and a wireless link to the Cloud, enable the merging of virtual information with the real world. An integrated camera enables video recording, still image capture and the potential for powerful augmented reality applications.
Industry, Medical. “Although we are seeing applications developed in most every market, there has been a strong focus on the industrial and medical markets,” said Paul J. Travers, chief executive officer.
“Our Company has a focus on developing the fundamental tools that enable applications from training to warehousing,” said Pete Wassell, president of Augmate Corporation, one of the first M100 Gold developers. “This new category of device is going to revolutionize many markets by injecting cloud-connected, hands-free and geospatially accurate information to applications that desperately need it. The M100 does a great job of delivering on that promise.”
The Vuzix developer program offers early access to the M100 smart glasses, technical support and advice. The M100 software developers kit is available in two versions, Gold and Silver. These SDKs are being delivered in stages and include frequent updates, hardware advances when released, and access to the developer center to provide technical and developer community support.
Because the demand is strong, Vuzix is delivering the first smart glasses on a first-come, first-served basis with custom-built prototypes going exclusively to its Gold Developers.