Google Glass interactive headgear has gotten a lot of attention, but are you ready for Samsung Glass? That electronics giant has filed a patent for what it describes as "sports glasses" that act as a peripheral to a smartphone.
The patent, brought to light by The Wall Street Journal, was filed this month in Samsung's home base of South Korea. It describes a device that allows the wearer to take phone calls while exercising and otherwise manage a smartphone without the use of hands.
The eyepieces are transparent or translucent, with graphics and data display overlaid on the screen of one eye, not unlike Google's device-in-development. Earphones enable listening to phone calls or music, the screen overlay can show alerts from the smartphone and there appears to be a camera. There is also a wire that connects the device through a micro-USB link.
The device appears similar to Google's, except Google's is designed to run its own apps, and there's no word yet if Samsung's sport glasses support wireless connectivity such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, although it would be surprising if it did not. It's also not yet clear if Samsung's is designed as an apps platform, or is positioned more as a display-and-control peripheral.
An age of wearable computing has been prototyped and discussed in R&D labs for several decades, and now may be emerging into the marketplace with smart watches. Samsung's interest in interactive headgear, along with interest that is rumored at Apple, Microsoft and other technology companies, could see glasses-like devices become a flourishing category -- or go the way of the flying car.
Apple has reportedly been working on augmented reality headgear since 2006, but has apparently put such a device aside to focus on the iPod and the iPhone. There have also been reports that Microsoft has been testing prototypes of Net-connected glassware.
Brad Shimmin, an analyst for industry research firm Current Analysis, told us that he is "not shocked" to hear that Samsung has been considering a product that could compete with Google Glass, and he said he similarly would not be surprised to hear that Acer and Asus are also developing their own versions. Other companies are also looking to get into the glasses action, including Vuzix, Epson and Optinvent.
But are wearables catching on? Shimmin, who's at two tech conferences in Las Vegas, said he's already seen "seven or eight" people at the shows wearing smart watches, so at least a small foothold for that kind of product may be emerging.
As for interactive glasses, Shimmin said he himself "wouldn't wear any such device in a regular public setting," but he would do so in special activities that benefited from additional information, such as skiing, hiking, "or maybe a ballgame."
But there may also be many other kinds of specialized experiences where Google Glass and similar devices can be very useful, such as during surgery. A few weeks ago, for instance, Royal Philips and Accenture announced that they had successfully conducted a proof-of-concept demonstration of Google Glass for use by surgeons before, during and after surgery, as a way to continuously receive live data on heart rate, oxygen saturation and blood pressure, among other things.