Hey Bose glasses, tell me what it is I'm looking at.
Smart glasses based on augmented reality typically work by floating a visual layer of information related to your surroundings that only you as the person wearing those spectacles are able to see.
The AR glasses that Bose is showing off as a working prototype at SXSW in Austin, which kicks off this weekend, doesn’t change what you’re seeing—there’s no actual display inside. Instead by determining your location (via GPS on your nearby iOS or Android phone) and tracking the way your head is turned, the glasses promise to tell you all about what it is you're seeing.
Call them Smart Audio glasses.
Maybe, for example, you’re in a museum. The Bose product will then tell you all about the painting in front of you. Perhaps you’re standing at a monument of a famous person. You’ll then maybe hear a speech from the historical figure. Or you might have audio from the glasses telling you which way to find your gate at the airport.
Smart glasses--yes, the more visual kind--grabbed a lot of attention back in 2013 when Google brought out Google Glass, which was widely characterized a flop. It was expensive, raised privacy and safety concerns, and was perhaps ahead of its time. These days, Google is back at it with a version pitched to enterprises.
Other companies have embraced AR glasses of one type or another since with Vuzix, for example, reaching out to the "prosumer" market with $1000 Amazon Alexa-capable see-through smart specs that can project directions, menus, weather reports, social feeds and and more onto an image that appears in front of your eyes.
Absent any kind of display, the Bose prototype has Bluetooth, a microphone that Bose said can be used to summon the Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri, and miniaturized acoustics that are embedded inside the arms. Indeed, it's all about the sound that's piped in.
Bose hasn’t announced any immediate plans to commercialize such glasses, much less offered any sense of cost should they do so. But as a company that has built its reputation through the years on its prowess in audio technologies, Bose is using the glasses to showcase a new augmented reality audio platform or software kit for app developers and manufacturers that it is also announcing in Austin; the kit is expected to be available in the summer.
By combining the software with the wafer-thin acoustics package that Bose has placed inside the glasses prototype (as well as Bose headphones that are also being demonstrated at SxSW) the thinking is the technology can turn up in other wearables: helmets, goggles, baseball caps, and yes, other eyewear.
Bose is already collaborating with ASICS Studio, Strava, TripAdvisor, TuneIn, and Yelp.
Just as someone wearing more conventional smart glasses is the only person who can see any images projected in front of their eyes, so is it that you as the wearer of the Bose glasses will be the only one able to hear the audio. The small speakers in the glasses aren’t in your ears but pointed at your ears, says John Gordon, vice president of the consumer electronics division at Bose, who adds that you can stay immersed and hear in the real world, even as audio about your surroundings is delivered.
And if you were listening to music with Bose headphones that incorporated such technology, the songs would be paused so that you can hear whatever other audio is meant to reach your ears..
In theory you'll get to choose what that audio is, depending on which way you look. Gordon says to imagine you're on a bridge over the Seine in Paris. "Straight in front of you is the Louvre. To your left is the Eiffel Tower and to the right is Notre Dame." Look one way or the other, he says, and "tell me more about what I’m seeing."
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