One of the things that I set out to discover at CES 2018 was how far the industry has come in terms of developing augmented reality into a platform for all consumers. In the years since Google Glass flopped, we’ve been in a sort of holding pattern, waiting for some company to make a move in this space. But then I ran into ThirdEye and their X1 Smart Glasses at CES Unveiled on Sunday night.
These things might be the closest thing to what I was hoping to find. They are smart glasses that let the user overlay digital information onto what they’re already seeing in front of them. Two independent “screens” are placed in front of each eye while two traditional looking glass lenses rest in front of those. The easiest way to describe the experience of wearing them is that it’s like having that Google Glass screen doubled and put right in your line of sight. The application that I was able to demo projected an image of what I’d be seeing without the glasses in front of my face and then overlaid information on top of the projected image (it was a product identification app, that the rep told me will develop into something that can help people identify who it is they’re talking to—so forget about forgetting names). It wasn’t made clear if the product would be able to overlay tech onto a non-camera-based view, which would be more ideal than trying to navigate the world through a TV-screen-like display. But the fact that the lenses are swappable for prescription-based ones makes me believe the user does have an unobstructed view in other AR applications.
From a comfort standpoint, the glasses were heavy, but not so much that it was uncomfortable. The lack of a strap around the whole product, though, made it feel like if I were to look down they’d fall right off my face. Admittedly though, from a form factor standpoint, these glasses aren’t the ideal representation of what I’d call easily adoptable AR glasses. If you’re looking for a product that rests on your face and doesn’t make you look like you’re a tech nerd, these aren’t it. They compromise that sleeker look for the safe of providing the user more battery life than anything else on the market right now—removable 2,400 mAh batteries give the user about 8 hours of usage before needing a charge. But the bulk isn’t really a problem when you consider the ideal market for these smart glasses. ThirdEye does have the consumer in mind to a certain extent, but they’re thinking bigger picture with their X1 Smart Glasses.
Built around the Android platform as a way to make these a developer-friendly product, the X1 Smart Glasses are going to have a far greater success rate in the commercial space than they will for consumers—and that’s not a bad thing. Speaking with the ThirdEye team at CES Unveiled, they were happy to tell of training applications that are in development along with in-the-field tools for professionals that can put them in touch with someone off site to walk them through whatever job they’re in the middle of. The company is also working with college campuses to use the glasses as a way to give new and prospective students guided tours around their campuses. A user could strap the glasses on, get information about the buildings around them and even possibly see upcoming schedules for events happening at each spot around campus.
From a consumer standpoint t, the glasses could provide users a new way to watch TV, according to ThirdEye. The company will be showing off an eight-screen TV application that has major implications for the potential future of sports television. Forget about the quad box for NFL Sundays—imagine getting eight or more games at once?
Though I don’t think I’ve found my absolute answer to AR here, there is plenty to be excited about what ThirdEye is developing. Some work still needs to be done from the camera quality perspective as the image quality projected in front of me was lackluster and definitely glitchy at times. But I can start to see the possibilities of a glasses-based platform, and they’re promising.