Sony’s smart glass uses regular glasses, aims for sports and work

Sony has announced its own take on the smart glass concept. To be formally unveiled at CES next month, the Single-Lens Display Module can be attached to existing glasses, to add a heads-up display and general smartness.

The unit clips round the back of the user’s head, attaching to each of the glasses’ temples. [company]Sony[/company] is working on a software development kit (SDK) so people can make hands-free information apps for the thing – the Japanese firm reckons it will be ideal for sports and factory work, and could even be paired with a high-quality action camera to make it easier to check the angle of view.

Although the pictures of the device that Sony released on Wednesday suggest otherwise, the module doesn’t have its own camera. Indeed, a Sony spokesman told me that the images are of a prototype and do not represent the finished product.

The camera was left out for size and weight reasons, he said. That is probably a bonus from a privacy point of view, though it also makes the unit useless for life-logging (a pointless battery-killer in my opinion) or augmented reality (the display is too small for that anyway.) There is an accelerometer and an electronic compass in there, though.

Sony said it would also say more about the unit’s communications capabilities when it releases the SDK.

Sony Single-Lens Display Module sporting images

Sony Single-Lens Display Module sporting images

The module includes a 0.23-inch OLED display with a 640×400-pixel resolution, which is slightly higher than Google Glass’s 640×360 pixels. The company said the experience will be like looking at a 16-inch display from two meters away, which means it wouldn’t impede the user’s field of vision a bit less than Google’s unit. Sony claimed its display covers 100 percent of the sRGB color space and has a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, and has at most a 0.01 millisecond response time.

There have been reports that the next generation of [company]Google[/company] Glass will also turn to OLED technology (whenever that generation appears), but depending on Sony’s schedule it looks like the Japanese company will have a higher-quality — if smaller — display on the market first.

The brains in the module come from an ARM Cortex-A7 processor, which is the energy-efficient processor architecture you’ll find in Android Wear devices. There’s a 400mAh battery (less than Google Glass’s 570mAh affair), Bluetooth 3.0 and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and the whole thing weighs around 40 grams, including the display arm and the secondary arm. That’s a couple grams lighter than Google Glass.

The proof will be in the testing — and let’s hope the finished product isn’t nearly as bulky as the prototypes — but Sony is well-regarded for its display expertise. If it gets its pricing right, this might be a good first step in Sony’s glass game.

This article was updated at 2am PT to include a couple more details about the specifications, and again at 4am PT to reflect Sony’s confirmation that the pictures it published Wednesday weren’t of the finished product.

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