“Eyewear is the next mobile form factor.” I recently came across this interesting prediction in a blog on the Nokia’s company’s web site. The blogger, Phil,was quoting a panelist at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. He went on to envision a merger of eyewear technology with mobile device technology that can deliver an “augmented reality” experience to the wearer.

“Instead of keeping your head down to look at a device, it will always be up,” said Phil. “Instead of a small screen you’ll have the highest resolution possible. Instead of a photograph of your environment, you’ll see an overlay of metadata. And no more worries about the sun glare on your screen. How about designer augmented-reality-glasses co-produced by trendy sunglass brands like D&G and Gucci? And how about a virtual pet dog that can only be seen through these glasses?”

I don’t know about the virtual pet dog, but I wouldn’t mind wearing glasses with a built-in GPS system, or Internet access as long as I’m not driving a car or operating heavy equipment. In fact, companies such as Microvision have developed this type of technology for the military, and soon consumers will be able to take advantage of it.

How soon? A lot depends upon which eyewear companies are taking the plunge into electronic eyewear. Last month at Vision Expo East, PixelOptics announced that it would begin test marketing its electronic lenses in the fall, with a national roll-out set for January 2011. Aspex Eyewear will be making an “electronic lens-ready” frame for PixelOptics, whose other collaborators include Panasonic, Transitions and Shamir.

This is the beginning of a new era. If I were an OD or optician, I’d be figuring out a way to position myself to get on board this next wave of eyewear technology.

—Andrew Karp