Smart glasses, a new way to see the world.

What are smart glasses?

Smart glasses are a special type of glasses that can display digital information on the lenses or in front of the eyes. They can have a camera, a microphone, and a speaker. Some have sensors to interact with what’s in front of them in an interactive way. They usually connect to a smartphone, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. Depending on the model, and, of course, on size and weight they can:

  • Take photos and videos
  • Play music, podcasts, or audiobooks with voice commands or gestures.
  • Make phone calls or video calls hands-free and actually see the caller on screen.
  • Access maps, navigation, or traffic information.
  • Browse the web, check emails, or watch online videos.
  • Monitor health, fitness, or biometric data and get feedback or coaching.

But apart from all that, some devices use AR (augmented reality) to overlay digital content on what you actually see in front of you. That way you move around in kind of a semi-virtual reality.

How do smart glasses work?

Depending on the type, smart glasses can have a camera, a microphone, a speaker, and sensors in the frame and lenses. That is rather strait forward and no more than other wearable techs can do. The uniqueness of smart glasses is that they can show imagery, and information directly on the lens. That way they create a mix of real-world and virtual reality for the bearer.

The way this is done is either by something called curved mirror combiner or by waveguide holographic optics. The first technology uses a projector and a curved mirror to reflect the image onto the lens. The second uses a laser and a hologram to diffract the light into the lens. Both these can show text, images, videos, or 3D objects onto the lens without obscuring the visual. The computer-generated images can be monitored so to speak in the middle of the real world. And that opens a whole new level of gaming and entertainment.

But not only that… Within the industrial sector, smart glasses are becoming a viable alternative to the old manual. For training, maintenance, and inspection, smart glasses with integrated AR technologies can assist industrial personnel and offer significant benefits such as increased operational productivity and efficiency.

The difference between VR and Smart glasses.

Smart glasses and VR glasses are both devices that can show you some amazing things. But they are different in how they do it. Smart glasses powered with augmented reality (AR) add digital stuff to the real world, like facts, pictures, or cartoons. You can still see and touch the real world with smart glasses on. VR glasses make a whole new world for you, like a game, a fantasy, or a movie. With VR glasses on, you can see and experience the virtual world in front of you, but you can’t touch it. If you try, you’ll probably smash into the fridge or fall off the couch. So, smart glasses are good for mixing digital and physical things, and VR glasses are good for diving into a different reality.

smart glasses

The difference between OHMD, HUD, AR, and all the other abbreviations.

There are a whole lot of words for how these gadgets show you stuff and what they can do and cannot. To be able to choose wisely, it’s a good idea to at least look into some of the abbreviations that smart glasses companies like to promote.

Optical head-mounted display (OHMD) means that the device has the capability of reflecting projected images as well as allowing the user to see through it. It can be a separate item but in the case of smart glasses, it’s simply the projector on the upper part of the frame.

Heads-up display (HUD) means a transparent display that can show information right there on the glass. without the user having to look away. The name comes from a pilot seeing the information from the panel without looking down… With his head up.

Augmented reality (AR) means adding digital stuff to the real world, like words, pictures, or cartoons. You can use HUDs or see-through displays for AR.

Virtual reality (VR) means making a new world that is not real, like a game, a fantasy, or a movie. You can use OHMDs that cover your eyes for VR.

Can smart glasses even improve your vision?

The bottom line is that smart glasses are still… Yes, glasses. As such it’s obvious that the main reason to wear them would be to see better. The lenses should adjust for defects in the eye and make the wearer of the glasses see more accurately. The smart glasses can in some cases take this task a step further. Some smart glasses can actually improve vision beyond what’s possible with a fixed lens.

The use of lenses made of glycerin, a thick clear liquid, enclosed in flexible membranes, can make one pair of glasses function as many. The membranes can be mechanically moved back and forth, changing the curvature of the glycerin lens. The distance meter on the bridge measures the distance from the wearer’s face to what he’s looking at. Then a signal is sent to adjust the curve of the lens. In that way, the lens adapts to the distance to whatever you’re looking at.

Or there are lenses with liquid crystals that adjusts to the lighting conditions. This can help you to see well even in very dark conditions, or if it’s very light, if you are blinded by the sun in your eyes. Another technique is to use micro cameras or sensors that can register and detect objects that you actually do not see. Then the AR assistant projects them on a screen. It’s almost like seeing things you don’t see. These smart glasses can be a significant help for people with really severe vision impairment.

The hysterically fast development during the last years.

Technical development often can start and increase completely new markets. With smart glasses that is very obvious. The market has literally exploded in recent years. Between 2019 and 2022, in just three years, the smart glasses turnover for the industry saw an increase of around 500%. And the growth is predicted to continue with an annual 15 – 25% until 2030.

Smart glasses are very new compared to many other wearable techs, and that means they start from humble levels. But even so, the increase in both production and revenue is impressive. Wearable techs are trendy, but maybe the trendiest of them all are smart glasses.