It looks like a mini-display, but can scan email, read Facebook updates and run other apps. It has also recently released its software development kit (SDK), which would enable other companies to develop products for the platform. With a summer release date, it will go on sale for less than $500.
The M100 Smart Glasses looks like it's only half a pair of spectacles, with controllers attached to the user's ear. Vuzix showed a prototype of the M100 as part of their announcement at the recently-concluded CES. The prototype had 720p HD video resolution, 4GB or storage, WiFi and GPS. It also has three earpiece buttons, intended for the user to control settings and operate the device in lieu of speech commands.
Vuzix is a small company located at Rochester, NY and has been developing their own glass interface for several years now. This is not an ordinary David, as it has been developing glasses for military and industrial use for years. The company presented a consumer grade glass even before 2010, although fascination with AR and speech-enabled interfaces has propelled it into popularity with the technology media.
Consumers have been aware of the Google Glass project since last year, but Google is still working on perfecting the platform. In recent interviews, Google executives are even quoted to say they have not yet found any practical application for Glass. As such, an early release by Vuzix can steal the thunder from Google. As a smaller company, it does not need to outsell Google. It only needs to be on the market first, consolidate a foothold and let Google play catch up afterwards.
It's not that Google can't play that game. In fact, it has a history of being a late entrant to a niche and then dominate it with technical innovations and great user experience. It was a late entrant in search, web-based mail and in cloud services. It introduced Android to an already-crowded smartphone market, which was, by that time, being dominated by Apple’s iPhone.
In the above cases, it simply grabbed a foothold and held on to become the dominant product and service provider. In this instance, with a 2014 release for Google Glass, the developer tools for it will be released late this year.
Early reviews of the M100 are upbeat. Its lens has 800x480 pixels and the resulting screen image floats inches in front of the user. Once apps for the Vuzix M100 start coming in, its use could be extended further.
Google Glass developers plan to connect the device to the cloud via WiFi. The developers are wary that synching via Bluetooth would be slow and cumbersome. Both these visual AR projects will give users a less obtrusive device for accessing information from the internet. Google had already started generating buzz around glasses-type interfaces. However, Vuzix might end up ahead in the market if it can, indeed, launch mid-2013, and capture a big enough audience for its glasses.