While Google continues to reap first mover advantage in the fairly under-populated consumer augmented-reality headset arena, its latest Diane von Furstenberg-designed Made For Glass upping the smartglasses style quotient considerably, other tech firms still struggle to come up with connected frames that you would actually want to slap on your face.
Toshiba's new prototype being shown off at tech expo Ceatec Japan this week has a familiar name, Glass, and seems to suffer a familiar fate: overly big as a consequence of squeezing in a load of projection tech, relatively scant app support to actually do much with them once you have a pair on, and not slickly designed enough to put yourself through the embarrassment of wearing them for prolonged periods once you have.
But is it the worse we've witnessed? By no means. When it comes to sticking a camera and some motion sensors on your chops and throwing some stats in front of your sightline, we've seen some pretty special efforts of late. If Made For Glass grabs the current smartglasses gold at the Tech Style Olympics, here's the queue for the heads-up wooden spoon…
Arguably the only Glass contender – indeed, nab the all-black number of these sporty sight-assisters when they're out in January and you'll actually look a bit like Street Hawk. But that's not a look that goes with much else other than motorbikes and killing bad guys. Presuming you want to do something else, we suggest "run to the hills"; not just because no one will clock you wearing them, but because activity makes the most of their AR skills, with ANT+ support accessing an array of third-party sensors for running, cycling, sailing, triathleting, etc. There's plenty to do with them, if you don't mind looking a bit of a plonker.
What DO you look like: An international cricketer ready for some Google Translate-assisted sledging… in The Future.
This prototype is the new kid on the block, set for release early next year, and really not that horrific at all aside for the enormous orange hinge messing up the silhouette. That bulging temple box is a built-in projector that throws the reflected image on to the inside of the subtly vertical prism-stacked lens, with all the services running from your umbilically connected smartphone. That's right: to keep the weight down, these fellas ain't wireless.
What DO you look like: Someone who's nicked a pair of glasses from a department store and can't get the security tag off… in The Future.
The original smartglasses poster boy, before Google bothered to get a fashion designer out of bed in earnest, Glass Explorer remains fantastically simple in its Android-powered yet self-contained execution, and yet undeniably awkward when worn. The metal unibrow, the inflexible build, the prism's app-linked goodness just that too far out of your line of sight – this was truly function over form. The Made For Glass designer iteration has already fixed the first two of these, so fingers crossed on that last one.
What DO you look like: A call centre operative searching surreptitiously, but hurriedly, for your next job… in The Future.
High on our priority list of smartglass essentials is "must make us look like a pantomime villiain", so we're a big fan of this Sony prototype. Its hologram system spits out a night vision-esque green image that floats about two metres in front of your eyes, handing you directions, recipes and other vital contextual info. But if the squashed look didn't put us off, having to carry around a handheld battery-cum-controller in our jeans would do it.
What DO you look like: As if you've sat on some unused 3D specs you forgot you got free with your telly and decided to wear them… in The Future.
Built specifically for very serious commercial use – primarily industrial and medical workers needing to keep their hands free while doing more important jobs than "OK Glass, Skype Mum" – it's fairly unsurprising that the cyborg-esque "monocular" M100s aren't exactly catwalk material. They do process the video they capture locally, though, which decreases lag and can stream footage direct from your vision, which is ideal when dealing off-world debris with particularly untrustworthy Space Orcs (the salesman said).
What DO you look like: A Red Dwarf Simulant preparing for an invasion… in The Future.
My eyes, my eyes! Look, Epson makes great printers and projectors, products that rely on long-established expert internals over boyish, trendsetting good looks – and we're completely cool with that. As a projector player we can kind of understand it getting in on smartglasses, too, but the art of aesthetics is clearly a dark one. This ridiculous-looking, eminently breakable pair of Wi Fi- and Bluetooth-connected specs projects not one but two virtual displays over your eyeballs, creating a "perceived" 80-inch screen to overlay info and entertainment (32GB microSDHC card support!) on wherever you go. Which would be great if anyone, anywhere would actually consider wearing these in public.
What DO you look like: Like you made them yourself with whatever was knocking around in your remote drawer… about five minutes ago.