Intelligent – and optionally autonomous – glasses combining sound, photo, video, GPS, augmented reality, various captors, and so on... Will these soon gain a wider audience to become as familiar to us as smartphones? Some professionals appear to believe so. A Market Allied Research study states that the world market for intelligent glasses, estimated at $8.31 billion in 2019, should reach $33.16 billion by 2027. That growth will result from an extension of the features and utilizations of these glasses and the technology of the lenses, which has considerably evolved through the last few years. The analysts of Market Allied Research envision a solid progression of intelligent glasses for professional use in a number of fields such as manufacturing, logistics, field services, inspection, exploitation, and work sharing, not to mention training and education. “The progress of artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial vision, combined with big data and analysis, should generate opportunities on the intelligent glasses market in the near future,” they predict. Technology in the tracking of faces and objects, and in vocal recognition for commands, among others, will be improved and developed.” They add that “the growing trends towards the fourth industrial revolution and the demand for augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology in the gaming industry are the principal growth factors on the worldwide intelligent glasses market.”
The focal point is literally an immersion in mixed reality (MR) and extended reality (XR), a term which encompasses the various immersive forms of reality: “The fusion of real and virtual worlds, located somewhere along the continuum of virtuality spanning from completely real environments to completely virtual environments,” in the words of Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino, two researchers who laid the foundations... In 1994! This now tried-and-true technology is already present in some glasses (or headsets, to be more precise) such as Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest), of which the sales surpass 15 million units annually. The first step into mixed reality will be ramped up with Project Cambria, the new Meta headset that should offer even more realistic immersion and an even more spectacular superposition of worlds. In fact, the Silicone Valley giants are already in the starting-blocks.
Apple Glass, a market booster?
Sight unseen, Apple Glass is eagerly awaited by the brands on the market and geeks... But will it stimulate the market? The Californian company is known for bringing new technologies to the forefront, popularising them through intuitive interfaces; and for its reluctance to gadgetise innovations, preferring to lift the market up to the next level. A number of leaks, rumours and predictions always swarm around up-and-coming Apple products. One of the keenest observers is an American, Jon Prosser, who in 2021 revealed the various specificities of Apple Glass, an innovation hopefully to be released in 2023... There is no doubt that the technology does indeed exist, and should herald the future of intelligent glasses. Jon Prosser listed a number of patents filed by Apple that provide initial clues into the characteristics of the glasses: True Tone lenses, which change colours according to the available light (just as Macs and iPhones do); self-cleaning lenses; an immersive technology similar to Google’s Street View; depth captors for better perception in low or bright light; and a Lidar captor on one of the temples to analyse the environment and detect hand and finger movements for interaction through the AssistiveTouch technology already present on other Apple devices. It is predicted that the battery charges wirelessly, and that the glasses may be fitted with corrective lenses. Three different models will be made available, according to non-authoritative sources. We’ll keep an eye on developments!
With such committed companies willing to spend billions of dollars on the subject, the optical and eyewear industry cannot afford to wait passively on the side-lines. Sébastien Brusset, coordinator of the SILMO NEXT space, is convinced that in the medium term, alongside MR and XR glasses/headsets, connected glasses for everyday wear are going to become widespread, and will be as sought-after as connected watches are today. “In a few years, the standard model of frames that hold corrective lenses will be outdistanced by frames featuring technologies relative to content dissemination, healthcare and other subjects,” he affirms. The micro-miniaturisation of hardware and the extension of software with easy, ergonomic man/machine interfaces is continuing to ramp up, and some of the functions of connected watches could be available in connected glasses. A watch and a pair of glasses are both personal objects, but the latter is more appropriate for “life-sized” functions. On-board captors might evaluate the environment, assess the air quality, inform the wearer of UV intensity, manage luminosity, follow cardiac rhythm, and more. Augmented vision: “It’s already tomorrow,” to coin a phrase.