The Google Glass-style eyewear comes with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
A year on from being debuted at the CES technology show in early 2018, the Vuzix Blade smart glasses are now available for everyone to buy.
Instead of being sold purely to industry, this is being marketed as a consumer device which can be bought from Vuzix's website for $999.
Similar to the ill-fated Google Glass, the Blade glasses feature a simple operating system which is projected onto one of the lenses and appears to float in front of the wearer, similar to the head-up display of a car dashboard.
There is an integrated battery, a touchpad with haptic feedback for navigating around apps and menus, microphones for speaking with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, a simplified Android operating system, and a forward-facing 8-megapixel camera.
Google Glass was criticized for featuring a camera which could potentially be used for subtly taking images and recording video of unsuspecting bystanders, making us wonder how privacy pressure groups will react to the Blade's HD camera.
There's a micro USB port for charging the battery, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connecting to a smartphone and the internet, plus the option for fitting prescription lenses (for another $200).
Instead of producing a rich augmented reality experience like the Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One, the Vuzix Blade aims to offer similar information to that shown on a smartwatch. This includes notifications and simple applications; as such, this is more of a smartphone companion than a standalone device.
Although working in a similar way to Google Glass, the Blade has a higher display resolution, offers a more colorful interface, and a wider field of view. This is important, as a major issue with Glass was how the display would disappear if the wearer looked slightly off-center.
Vuzix has been providing units to developers for a year, so hopefully a range of third-party applications will soon be available for early adopters of the consumer version. This could include rich AR experiences, making use of the camera and motion sensors to make digital elements of the interface interact with items in the real world, as the HoloLens and Magic Leap do.
However, the bulky design and high price make us wonder if this will really become a commercial success, or if — like Google Glass — the Blade will find itself an audience in manufacturing and other industries where workers need hands-free access to information, and a way of recording what they are doing.
We're particularly keen to see how Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant will be implemented to get the most out of the smart glasses.