As I crisscrossed the seemingly endless corridors of the exhibit halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the smaller but equally packed Venetian Hotel last month, I saw all types of technology-enabled eyewear, much of it on display for the first time. Some of this eyewear were prototypes, such as the Optinvent AR glasses I’m wearing here, but some are on the market now or soon will be. It’s all part of the growing category of “wearables,” a loose term that encompasses any device worn on the body that can record, store and transmit data. Wearables is the fastest growing consumer product category and had a huge presence at CES.
The eyewear wearables at CES fell into two main categories. One is smart glasses, which are glasses or goggles that combine smartphone features such as Internet and Bluetooth connectivity with the ability to show text or images on an HUD (Heads Up Display) or a display embedded in a lens or projected onto it. This creates an Augmented Reality (AR) experience in which the wearer can view information that is overlaid onto their “real world” view. Some AR glasses include a high-definition camera that can shoot video or still images and upload them to social media sites or a computer.
The other main category is Virtual Reality (VR) glasses which typically feature an immersive, 3D display and are worn for gaming, movies and other applications.
Many observers of the technology scene believe that 2014 is “The Year of Wearables,” and I would agree, judging from what I saw at CES. Consumers are rapidly adopting this technology, and eyewear is an important part of it. Keep your eye on wearables, and think about how they might fit into your optical business.
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology