Augmented reality raises a number of issues. There are, of course, the normal concerns related to supporting it technically and monetization.
Before the industry gets to those important questions, however, an even more topic needs to be aired: Eyewear that can obscure vision or distract the person carries safety concerns. A debate is necessary, and soon. In addition to the Google entry, a number of similar devices are available, near release or in the planning stages.
Here are some of the candidates:
- Yesterday, GigaOm’s Katie Fehrenbacher reported that Takahito Iguchi, whom she describes as a Japanese entrepreneur, introduced Telepathy One in New York City. She said that the device seems like Google Glass, but adds ear buds. The device appears to go further:
Unlike with Google Glass, the Telepathy One has an optically projected small screen in front of the eye of the wearer, and a cell phone app controlled by the partner captures the images that the wearer sees in a tiny screen. The Telepathy team said the device will also be able to take photos or videos from the headset and stream those images to the partner’s cell phone app, but the prototype didn’t yet have that functionality.
- Vergence Labs’ Epiphany Eyewear, which seems similar both to Google Glass and Telepathy One, opened for preorders earlier this month, according to VB. The site described the glasses:
Vergence has made a set of “smart glasses” that are simply well-designed glasses with a computer inside. That computer powers a high-definition video camera that you can use to take pictures or record videos. It has software and apps that let you integrate with mobile devices to share your imagery with your friends. You can livestream your video directly to your Facebook wall if you wish.
- Earlier this month, AppleInsider reported that Brian White, an analyst, told investors in a note that Microsoft seems ready to join the masses on glasses.
- PCMag, also at the beginning of the month, said that the Chinese are getting into the electronic eyewear act. The site, quoting Sina.com, said that Baidu – which the story calls China’s largest search engine – is testing a Google Glass-like device called Baidu Eye. The device, the story said, will be able to make calls, search the Web (it’s not difficult to guess what the default engine will be), recognize users’ gestures and send photos.
- In late March, TechCrunch reported on a patent application from Sony that was filed last November. The story, which included the sketches from the application, says that an earlier Sony application was filed a few months earlier. Here is the key paragraph from the story:
Sony’s most recent patent is a more practical take on HMD glasses. They’re built on a traditional glasses frame in a sort of Google Glass fashion. The actual pop-up display sits behind the glasses’ lenses and, as previously mentioned, there are two displays along with ear buds mounted on little arms.
This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list. Two questions need immediate attention: How can levels of distraction be measured? Once that is possible, what safeguards can be put in place so that people aren’t reading menus of available restaurants as they drive down a busy street? Once that’s done, work can begin on safety and security issues.