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Consumer Smart Glasses Are Set to Arrive Next Year

"Anything that your cellphone can do, glasses can do."

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

The Osterhaut Design Group has been making smart glasses for close to a decade, but its focus has primarily been on government clients — until this year’s CES, where it outlined its plans to release a consumer pair of glasses in 2016.

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

In the interim, it is broadening its scope to include the wider non-governmental world of enterprise and is hunting for developers to support those ambitions on its upcoming glasses model, the R7. Planned for release in the next quarter, R7 glasses (retailing for $2,750) will run a version of Google’s Android operating system (Kit Kat) and feature two stereoscopic 720p displays that run at up to 80 frames per second, a significant bump from the previous model’s 30 frames.

The big picture: Like most augmented reality wearable devices right now, the R7 is trying to both serve an existing market and prepare for one that doesn’t quite yet exist. In an interview with Re/code, ODG COO Pete Jameson touted both the industrial benefits of the glasses — new lenses make them usable in dark locations like mine shafts — and consumer-facing improvements like a four-megapixel forward-facing camera that can record in 1080p at 60 frames per second.

“Today, we’re focused on the technology for industrial and commercial applications: Logistics, maintenance, telepresence, medicine,” Jameson said. “But there’s a huge opportunity from the generic business and consumer perspective. Anything that your cellphone can do, glasses can do.”

He suggested that in the not too distant future, airlines might want to loan a few pairs of ODG glasses to their first-class flyers so they can watch 3-D movies or view virtual reality-esque panoramas in a 360-degree media app rather than donning a pair of goggles like the Samsung Gear VR.

Early augmented reality adoption by consumers, Jameson added, would likely be “purposeful”: People would buy glasses for specific tasks, like checking email or watching movies, and use them in brief bursts rather than wearing them all day. He estimated the R7’s battery could last around five to six hours on average, but acknowledged that an intensive enterprise app using all of its sensors could burn through the battery in 60 to 90 minutes.

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

Jameson praised Microsoft’s splashy announcement earlier this year of its own augmented reality glasses, HoloLens, as “a shot in the arm, like Google Glass,” that will spur developer interest in AR. Natch, he also made sure, soon after, to point out that existing Android developers could port their apps to the smart glasses “tomorrow,” if they so desired.

“Success for us with this version is acknowledgement that it’s a very powerful platform, with a wide breadth of applications,” Jameson said.

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