The two world leaders in the eyewear sector - the very Italian Safilo and Luxottica - are entering the smart glass arena with fashionable, technological models designed for everyday use
Safilo and Luxottica, two successful Italian companies in the eyewear sector are launching into the smart glasses sector, but with style: classy technological products designed for everyone and not only for hi-tech fanatics like Google Glass.
Luxottica started first with the Radar Pace, a pair of voice-controlled glasses for cyclists and runners under its Oakley brand, while Safilo is about to launch its first model at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) scheduled for next month in Las Vegas. They will be normal eyewear at first glance, explains Luisa Delgado - Safilo's CEO - without cameras or screens and with initially limited functions. Their strong point will be mainly a technology able to measure brain waves and send the data to an application installed on a smartphone or tablet. The idea is to allow people to assess their moods, helping them to relax and meditate.
Safilo and Luxottica's bet in the smart glass sector
Our goal, continues Luisa Delgado, is a product that doesn't make the wearer look like a cyborg. They will be sports glasses sold under Safilo's Smith brand, fashionable enough to use every day so as to attract a large number of consumers rather than just "a few geeks,". People don't have to make extra sacrifices to buy glasses just because they have advanced technology. Another reason that pushed Safilo, and certainly Luxottica as well, to decide to get into the smart glasses business is the economic crisis that has also affected the traditional eyewear industry. If Google Glass were a flop due to their "clumsy" look, privacy issues regarding videos and inadequate battery life, there are those who have learned from the mistakes of others, such as Snapchat: its smart glasses capable of shooting videos of only 10 seconds to upload to the yellow ghost's social network were literally sold out in November as soon as they arrived on the market. If the smart glasses sector were to take hold, it would follow the same path as the smartwatch sector. Apple has thrown a door wide open and convinced traditional watchmakers like LVMH's Tag Heuer and Michael Kors Holdings to jump into the fray.
How the smart glass industry will evolve
And that seems to be the path the smart glasses industry will take. Analyst Harry Zervos of IDTechEx estimates that smart glasses industry sales, excluding virtual reality viewers, will reach $1.8 billion by 2021, up from $6.3 million this year. And he is convinced that the success of Safilo's product will depend mostly on price. Smart glasses unlike smartwatches, according to analyst Ramon Llamas of International Data Corp, have paid the penalty of being difficult to "wear" outside the home without being too conspicuous. Cameras in plain view or other overly conspicuous technological components have intimidated potential buyers.
The innovative functions of smart glass
Safilo, Luisa Delgado explains, has chosen Canadian company InteraXon of Toronto as its technology partner. The glasses, which have been in development for a year, will work like the Muse Headband sold for $250. And they won't focus on virtual reality but, rather, on the electroencephalographic technology that doctors and scientists use to detect brain signals. Five sensors - located on the bridge of the nose and behind the ears - will be integrated into the frame and the glasses will weigh about 37 grams with a battery that will last a week on a single charge. They will be on sale online starting next summer in the U.S., Safilo's largest market, and technical specifications will be unveiled at CES in Las Vegas scheduled for next month.
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