Why 2014 is the 'year of smart glasses'

Raise your glass to the coming wave of face-top computing gadgets. You'll see: There's something for everybody.

In the technology press, every year is the year of this and the year of that. Much of this kind of prediction is based on expectations or wishful thinking and is essentially meaningless.

But the fact is that more than a dozen smart glass products are expected to ship in the first half of next year, ranging in price from $79 to $3,000.

Oh, and Google Glass will probably ship, too.

The hype around Google Glass has inspired a division of opinion. The people who want Google Glass and smart glasses are probably in the minority, with most people saying: "No way!"

Google glasses project
Google's Glass digital eyewear will likely ship this year. (Image: Google)

They say this because Google Glass looks weird or dorky, they're too expensive or they're thought of as creepy invasions of privacy.

But the wide range of smart glass products coming next year may change a lot of minds. Some of them don't look, function or empty wallets like Google Glass does.

Here's what's happening now and over the next year in the incredible new world of smart glasses.

Google Glass

Thanks to the personal investment of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, as well as massive investment by Google, the invitation-only Google Glass product has by far the leading mindshare among all smart glasses competitors.

With a current user based of a several thousand people and a price of $1,500, Google Glass is hardly "mainstream." Still, it gets a lot of press and attention.

Google itself decided that allowing a face-recognition app would be rejected by the public as too "creepy," but a development group called Facial Network unveiled this week a face-recognition app for Google Glass called NameTag. Another app claiming face recognition, called MedRef, became available earlier this year.

Google announce a long list of powerful new Google Glass features recently. For starters, a MyGlass app was published for iOS devices on the Apple App Store. While not quite as full-featured as the Android version, it nevertheless provides connectivity and control options for Glass from an iPhone.

Google also enables Glass users to simply command the playing of any song with a voice command (as long as they have a Google Play Music account). This works nicely with recently announced stereo headphones sold by Google for Glass.

Google rolled out a wink-to-take-a-picture feature. It works even when Glass is in "sleep" mode, but only for the newer Google Glass 2.0 hardware.

Google also unveiled some new "Glassware" -- Google Glass apps -- including an RSS feed reader called Winkfeed and others.

Google Glass gets a lot of press. But don't think Google's is the only "smart" glass. In fact, the category has more than a dozen new entrants.

Epiphany Eyewear

Epiphany Eyewear from Vergence Labs starts at $299 and is mostly for pictures and video. The content is livestreamed to your PC via Wi-Fi or USB. One of the best things about Epiphany is that the headset looks a lot like regular glasses, and they can be fitted in some circumstances with prescription lenses, according to the company. But that comes at a price -- Epiphany has no display, so you can't see what you're filming until later. Vergence says Epiphany Eyewear may ship as early as January.

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