Japanese camera and optics company Olympus is developing a set of smart glasses along the lines of Google's Project Glass which, besides its other more useful functions, will allow users to view the real world with a brighter, friendlier glow.
Olympus showed off the prototype
in a press release on its website.
Hot on the heels of Apple's release, the MEG4.0 is an ultra-compact and wearable display prototype equipped with Bluetooth connectivity to link with smart phones.
The Olympus glasses are see-through with a "pupil division optical system" and they can increase the brightness of the real world seen through them. The prototype has a built-in acceleration sensor and GPS positioning is mentioned. No camera is mentioned but this must be an obvious possibility.
The resolution of the display is QVGA, 320 x 240 pixels and it has an eight-hour battery life – that is, when the glasses are switched on for just 15 seconds every three minutes.
What a weird idea! Translating this to continuous use we arrive at 40 minutes. It's possibly longer than that because there would be no repeated switch-on power burn. Even being generous a one-hour battery life is crap.
Olympus obviously needs development partners because its prototype is just a display – and smart glasses are systems with apps. Will app developers be willing to risk development effort with both Google and Apple looking to develop integrated smart specs systems? It's more likely Olympus will get together with someone like Sony to provide the systems expertise it lacks.
Olympus, by the way, is the company that publicly and visibly fired its British-born CEO, Michael Woodford, which he claimed at the time was a result of his discovery of concealed losses at the firm. He and Olympus later cut a compensation deal, and the firm is now restructuring – with up to 2,500 staff facing the sack.
There is something intuitively satisfying about the idea of smart glasses; it just feels right. With Olympus, Google and Apple involved in the area you can bet your last dollar other companies are looking into it too. They won't want to suffer iPad burn syndrome, waiting until a market leader like Google or Apple opens up a potentially vast new market before deciding to get in themselves, and then finding themselves locked out for two or three years as the market develops. ®