Where’s the killer app for smart glasses?

Last week, I wrote about the imminent wave of smart glasses that we’ll soon see on store shelves, now that the likes of Intel, Vuzix, Epson, Garmin, and several others are getting in on the game.

Now, The Verge has got a close look at what Intel’s been working on, and the company has plenty of good ideas: its Vaunt glasses are only slightly bulkier than regular spectacles, they don’t have creepy cameras, and they use a low-power laser to display your notifications just below your line of sight. Glance at them and they’re visible; look away, and they simply vanish.

Credit: Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

As Dieter Bohn noted in his coverage, Intel is thinking less about pushing a cutting-edge device onto customers right now than it is about figuring out how to create an “in between” display, and an open platform that could be far more useful down the line than it will be if launched right away.

Itai Vonshak, head of products for Intel’s New Devices Group (NDG) and the designer of the ingenious timeline interface on Pebble smartwatches, shared an interesting thought:

When I saw the first smartphone, I didn’t go and say, ‘wow, ride-sharing, that’s going to happen. But the fact is, ride-sharing would have never happened without smartphones. We’re excited about this because it enables new use cases for developers to come up with.

Fair enough: there’s nothing wrong with building for the future. What I’m concerned about is brands rushing to be first out of the gate with their smart glasses, with no real use case – and with several others following in quick directionless pursuit.

I won’t be surprised to see vapid ads for smart glasses touting ‘access to your notifications at a glance – literally!’ a few months from now, followed by reports of low sales. The fact is that these glasses, like other wearables and personal devices, will need killer augmented reality apps that make them appear desirable or essential – more so than the AR capabilities that your phone already manages. And there are already plenty of people who could use such a device.

Even with Google, Apple, and Microsoft's advances in augmented and mixed reality, we presently only have basic experiences on offer whose novelty value wears off way too quickly.
Credit: Google / YouTube