By Andrew Karp

Wearable devices are one of the hottest consumer product categories this year, and eyewear is emerging as an important vehicle for this exciting new technology. High-tech specs and eyewear-like products are turning up everywhere, from city streets to ski slopes. Although most wearers are young, tech-savvy early adopters, the market for these devices is growing steadily, according to industry observers. The upcoming release of Google’s highly promoted Glass is expected to galvanize consumer interest in this emerging market.

Wearable devices in a variety of eyewear form factors are currently available, including smart glasses with screens that let you view data and images, sunglasses that can shoot high definition video and upload it to your favorite social network site, and ski goggles with GPS systems and speedometers. Although these products are mostly being sold online or through consumer electronics or sporting goods stores, some are finding their way into optical dispensaries.

Whether eyecare professionals are selling high-tech specs or simply advising patients on their use, it’s clear they need to familiarize themselves with this new product category soon. The following roundup offers an overview of the features and benefits of some of the latest products.

Google recently revealed the technical details of Glass, its soon to be released wearable computer. According to the company’s website, the high-tech specs will feature a high resolution display that is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen viewed from 8 feet away. A built-in camera will be capable of capturing 5-megapixel images and video at a resolution of 720p and will feature 12 GB of usable memory, synced with Google cloud storage for 16 GB of storage. Audio will be delivered via a bone conduction transducer, Google says.

Glass will also have Wi-Fi connectivity and can communicate with any Bluetooth-capable phone. A companion app, MyGlass, requires Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher. MyGlass enables GPS and SMS messaging.

Glass will be powered by a battery that will carry a charge for one full day of typical use, although Google noted that some features, like Hangouts and video recording, are more battery intensive. A Micro USB cable and charger are included.

Glass will also have adjustable nosepads and a durable frame that fits any face, according to Google. Extra nosepads in two sizes will be included with each pair of Glass.


If you’re ready to try a pair of smart specs but don’t want to look like a cyborg, check out Epiphany Eyewear. Vergence Labs, a California-based start-up, created Epiphany Eyewear and is introducing a line of stylish specs that feature a thick, black frame made of “shape-memory” nylon, spring hinges and polarized, UV-blocking lenses. They were designed by David Meisenholder, whose portfolio includes Lady Gaga’s GL-20 Polaroid video glasses.

Epiphany Eyewear offers HD video recording with audio, which is controlled by a tactile “on” button on the right temple and HD live streaming through a compatible tablet to YouGen.TV and Facebook. The glasses are powered by a lithium ion battery that can be recharged over USB after one to two hours of video recording, which in normal use of recording short video snippets means about two days of normal use.

The frames, currently available in black only, are equipped with a multiple lens stack with a multilayer AR coating, including a plano front lens that is impact resistant and a 2.00 base lens in the back that can take prescriptions from -2.00D to +2.00. Sandwiched between them is a flat, electrochromic lens that is activated by a small switch at the front of the frame. The speed of activation, from lightly tinted to dark gray, is one millisecond.

Although the current version of the lens can only flip from light to dark and back again, future versions will have the ability for the wearer to adjust the degree of tint they want using an app that controls the voltage. Future versions of Epiphany Eyewear will also have Internet connectivity.

Currently, Epiphany glasses are only available from the company’s website. Prices vary according to how much video storage the buyer wants. Eight GB storage costs $299; 16 GB costs $399 and 32 GB costs $499.

Vuzix Corp.’s sleek new Smart Glasses M100 were selected as an Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Best of Innovations honoree at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show and picked as the best new technology in the Wireless Handset Accessories product category. In addition, Vuzix Smart Glasses also received the honoree distinction in the Personal Electronics category.

Vuzix describes Smart Glasses M100 as “the world’s first enhanced hands-free display and communications system for on-the-go data access from your smart phone and the Internet.” It contains a virtual display with integrated camera and powerful processing engine, running an Android OS. It connects wirelessly via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to your smart phone (iOS or Android) or other compatible device. Powerful enough to connect to the Internet, run applications and games on its own, the M100 works in conjunction with a smart phone to offer existing and future applications such as texts, video, e-mail, mapping and audio.

As a hands-free accessory with AR (Augmented Reality) camera/display functionality, Vuzix Smart Glasses let you do things like answer the phone with a visual address book, while enabling applications from reading text messages and e-mail to visual navigation. More advanced features such as basic augmented reality applications are also offered. Vuzix Smart Glasses, M100 include an integrated head tracker and GPS for spacial and positional awareness, and an integrated camera enables video recording and still image capture. The interactive tracking and integrated camera combined with applications on the M100 and a smart phone linked to the Cloud, allow for the merging of virtual information with the real world.

Ski goggles are some of the most technologically advanced eyewear available, and Zeal Optics has established itself as a front runner in the field. The company offers electronic goggles with a built-in high definition video camera as well as one with GPS.

Zeal’s newest offering is the HD Camera Goggle (pictured here), which was recently upgraded so it can shoot 1080P high definition video and 8 MP photos. The sleekly designed unit, which retails for $399, also boasts such goodies as a temperature gauge and more filming options such as shooting at 120 frames per second in addition to the current 30 and 60. There is an updated graphic user interface for the heads up display and an additional black and blaze colorway. Other features include a 170-degree wide angle lens, instant replay and a built-in microphone. The line also includes a lower price point model, without the in-goggle viewfinder for only $299.

Zeal’s GPS Collection features its Z3 Live model, which features Recon Technology’s acclaimed Mod Live GPS system retailing for $599. The system includes a display that sits unobtrusively in the lower right corner of the goggle and allows for 84 degrees of visibility looking forward, as well as a full view of peripheral regions. Crisp, widescreen graphics deliver real-time stats and sensory data direct-to-eye. You can track your speed, altitude, jump airtime, temperature and distance. The innovative prism technology makes it seem as though you’re looking at a 14-inch screen from a distance of 5 feet, according to Zeal. The goggle is Bluetooth-enabled, and smart phone connectivity provides caller ID, text messages, buddy tracking, trail maps and navigation.