Digital technologies seek to become more ubiquitous and portable. From bulky computers, we have moved on to laptops, tablets, and smartphones. All these devices, however, require one or two hands to operate. Smart glasses constitute the first line of technology that can be controlled by sight and voice alone. However, these advantages come with certain drawbacks and assumptions regarding their use.
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Smart glasses are a type of technology that seeks to provide the full range of services currently offered by smartphones while remaining hands-free, allowing the owners to operate using both hands. Some of the primary uses of smart glasses include the implementation of an optical display or a transparent heads-up display in order to superimpose information onto the real-life visual imagery, enhancing visuals, and allowing the user to see better (Boriskina, 2017). Although the prototypes of this technology were used in healthcare and the military, the first major attempt at marketing smart glasses came from Google in 2014. That venture, although offering a completely new competitive product to the digital market, failed to gain traction due to its many problems regarding the usability of the gadget. Production stopped in 2015, with limited editions released in 2017 (Boriskina, 2017). The purpose of this paper is to analyze the concept of Smart Glasses at its current stage of development and highlight the potential strengths, weaknesses, and assumptions behind the design.
Problems of Existing Technologies in Comparison to Smart Glasses
The existing array of technologies capable of providing information, enhancing imagery, and overlaying digital output over real-life visuals is largely limited to smartphones. Computers and tablets are generally too large and bulky to be carried around, whereas VR headsets cannot operate stand-alone without being within close proximity to the processing device (Boriskina, 2017). In order to operate a smartphone, a user needs to hold it in one or both hands, while providing the necessary input either with their fingers or voice commands. This limitation makes it impossible to utilize a smartphone while working at the same time.
Improvements Offered by Smart Glasses
As it was already stated, the primary downsides of smartphones relate to blocking the primary field of vision and using one or two hands to operate the device. Smart glasses are seeking to alleviate these issues by enabling users to receive information while keeping their hands free and using either voice or eye motions to operate the device. The technology that tracks the position of the pupil in order to detect the focus of the user is called the pupil center corneal reflection (PCCR), which uses the vector between the cornea and the pupil via an in-built infrared camera (Boriskina, 2017). This solution enables the eyes, which are typically used as the input organ of the human body, to provide valuable output as well. The potential changes provided by Smart Glasses are significant, especially in the working sector. The casual user segment of the market would also find some of the features provided by glasses to be trendy and exciting, especially when it comes to taking photographs, making videos, and enhancing the tourism experience.
The primary beneficiaries of Smart Glasses technology would be healthcare workers, various tech professionals, and the military. Smart glasses would enhance their perception of the object of focus, provide necessary information on the fly, and guide the users through various processes that would normally require an exercise in memory and precision. Namely, smart glasses could help surgeons identify different tissues and blood vessels as well as layers during complex operations, superimposing different color shades to help outline specific sectors on a body without having to use artificial colorants (Mitrasinovic et al., 2015). The military could benefit from having a HUD-like gadget that would present the position of the unit and its allies/enemies on a tactical minimap while retaining the capacity to use the glasses and the attached camera functions to highlight potential areas of interest (Rauschnabel, & Ro, 2016). Technological experts using Smart Glasses would be able to access the databases on various chips and schematics without having to consult with cumbersome manuals and extensive PDF databases. It would significantly simplify the process of working on repairs of different components.
Personal Opinion on Smart Glasses
My personal opinion regarding Smart Glasses is that they will remain popular within specific professional communities, but will not see as much success as the ubiquitous device as the smartphone did, in the late years. Despite offering significant advantages while freeing up both hands, its weaknesses largely revolve around the necessity to use the eyes for both input and output. It creates an overload of sensory functions, making its use in everyday life distracting. The inability to use hands to type and work with different objects on the screen eliminates Smart Glasses as a replacement to smartphones, tablets, and computers.
The primary assumptions behind the technology include the idea that people would prefer having their hands free at all times, as well as that customers would be willing to wear glasses even when they have good eyesight (Rauschnabel, & Ro, 2016). These assumptions are situational, in my opinion, as glasses do not fit everyone’s style, and hands usually do not play much of a role when traveling on foot, meaning that the primary advantage of Smart Glasses is rendered moot. I believe that the true potential of the technology in everyday use would be achieved once the technology would allow bypassing external input altogether and allow for receiving commands and signals directly from the brain.
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Boriskina, S. V. (2017, September). Optics on the Go. Optics and Photonics News, 28(9), 34-41.
Mitrasinovic, S., Camacho, E., Trivedi, N., Logan, J., Campbell, C., Zilinyi, R.,… & Dumont, E. L. (2015, February). Clinical and surgical applications of smart glasses. Technology and Health Care, 23(4), 381-401.
Rauschnabel, P. A., & Ro, Y. K. (2016, July). Augmented reality smart glasses: An investigation of technology acceptance drivers. International Journal of Technology Marketing, 11(2), 123-148.