Wearable Tech World Feature Article
December 17, 2014

Sony's SmartEyeglass Attach! Slip-On OLED Display Makes Glasses Smarter

It wasn't uncommon, 10 years or so ago, to see slip-on sunglasses that were simply just smoked lenses and a clip that could attach to most any pair of prescription glasses. While the slip-on prosthetic sunglasses didn't always fit well, or even cover the whole lens, it was a field-expedient solution to too much sun in one's eyes. Sony, meanwhile, appears to have taken that ball and ran with it, bringing out a detachable organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display designed to turn most any pair of glasses into fully-fledged smartglasses.

The detachable OLED display is still in the prototype stage,currently known as SmartEyeglass Attach!. But what it has is a very novel prospect; simply take the detachable OLED and attach it to a desired pair of glasses, at the stem. With the device in place, it can then route information to the display presented right in the viewer's line of sight, just like Google Glass would do.

The device weighs just 40 grams, at last report, which makes it readily attached to just about any pair of glasses, and is counterbalanced somewhat by a band that goes around the back of a user's head. On the right side, a control board includes a processor, a sensor hub, Bluetooth modules and Wi-Fi modules to allow for connectivity, an electronic compass, an accelerometer, a hefty 16 gigabytes of storage, and even a touch sensor to select among displayed information. The display itself measures just 0.23 inches, which Sony notes to be among the world's smallest, yet still managing to offer up a healthy 640 x 400 resolution. That's actually a small improvement over Google Glass at 640 x 360.

Release dates for the system are somewhat up in the air at this point, but a prototype of SmartEyeglass Attach! is said to be being readied for show at CES 2015 in Las Vegas. Reports also suggest plans are in the works for software development kits (SDKs) for developers, and the devices can be adapted for a number of uses ranging from entertainment to the workplace.

This is a novel concept, and if Sony can keep the prices low, it may just have a Google Glass-killer on its hands. Why? Because one of the biggest issues with Google Glass, at least outside of the workplace, was its sheer potential for intrusiveness. Google Glass was banned from bars and movie theaters thanks to its recording potential, and some lawmakers focused, perhaps unduly, on the distraction factor of using such devices while driving. But with something like SmartEyeglass Attach!, the objections are largely lost. Users can take off and put on the display as needed, and that takes a lot of teeth out of the matter. Of course, there still needs to be specific controls for driving—smartglasses can be a huge help while driving just as much as a huge danger, depending on how the devices are used—but most anywhere that might object to the constant use of such devices can hardly object when the smart part of the glasses are easily removed. Plus, while Google Glass is looking into designer frames, Sony's SmartEyeglass Attach!, meanwhile, can augment any pair of glasses, allowing for immediate access to every designer's frames.

Only time will tell just how well this does; pricing, I expect, will be the largest make-or-break facet of Sony's SmartEyeglass Attach!. But, we could be looking at a time where every set of glasses is smart thanks to a clip-on tool.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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