Sony, Microsoft may face same Google Glass challenges

As Google pulls back to tinker on Glass, rivals get working

sony smart eyeglass

While Google has put the prototypes of its Glass wearable back under wraps, the market is getting a bit more crowded.

Japanese electronics manufacturer Sony announced Tuesday that it is developing an Android-compatible pair of computerized eyeglasses designed to show users low-resolution imagery, as well as text. The device is also equipped with a camera.

At least one industry analyst said he doubts the new competition will put any added heat on Google, since every company trying to pursue computerized eyeglasses is facing the same challenges.

"Consumer smart glasses are a completely unproven product category," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "This was a possibility, far from the center of Google's solar system. I can't see them freaking out about this."

Manipulated by a wired controller, Sony's smart eyeglasses weigh 77 grams (about 2.7 ounces) and can connect with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

While a commercial release is scheduled for 2016, a developer edition is expected to go on sale in early March for $840. That's about half the price of Google Glass when that prototype went on sale. Google sold more than 10,000 pairs of its prototype for $1,500 each.

Glass, though it garnered a lot of headlines when first unveiled, also drew criticism for being too "geeky" and for privacy concerns that the device could easily photograph or video people without their knowledge.

In January, Google stopped selling Glass and closed its early tester "Explorer" program to give engineers time to rethink the product.

The company stressed that it was not giving up on Glass and had move the device frome its GoogleX research lab and placed it with a new team under the Google umbrella.

About the same time, Microsoft unveiled its own plans to launch a computerized headset.

Unlike Glass, Microsoft said its product, dubbed HoloLens, would be the first holographic wearable, and would allow users to see high-definition holograms, using voice commands and hand gestures.

HoloLens is scheduled to be released in the Windows 10 timeframe, which is expected around mid-year.

That means while Google is rethinking Glass, competitors are beginning to make their own moves.

Gottheil, however, doesn't think that any of the wearables producers will have an easy time of it.

"There's no reason to think that Sony and Microsoft will have any more success with a generalized glasses product than Google did," he said. "No matter how pretty, cheap, and high performing, it's still a gnat in the corner of your eye. They need to figure that out."

He added that both Sony and Microsoft have the benefit of seeing what worked and what didn't with Google Glass, and that alone could give them an advantage as they develop their own wearable devices.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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