ABI Research figures that the market for wearable computing like smart glasses will grow from $10.5bn last year to $55bn in 2022 as unit volumes explode from about 6 million last year to 50 million.
“Headworn devices are going to sweep over our lives like a tidal wave,” said Ralph Osterhout, the inventor and entrepreneur behind Osterhout Design Group and its line of AR headgear. Back in 2015 his R6 model cost $5,000. The new R8 is just $1,000. ODG’s gear are some of the world’s most powerful wearable computers, featuring the Snapdragon 835 chip by Qualcomm and running on Google’s Android platform.
The race is on to stake out market share for the VR/AR boom. Google famously started the smartglass revolution with Google Glass, now discontinued. Microsoft has its Hololens device. HTC, Dell, Asus, Lenovo, Samsung all have offerings. Apple is deep in development. Facebook in 2014 bought virtual reality headset maker Oculus for $2bn. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that VR would become “the most social platform ever.” Last month Facebook launched its Spaces app, VR lounges where you can hang out with your real friends, virtually.
But hey, this isn’t a tech blog. I’m based in Houston, home to heavy industry like oil refining and steel making. So naturally I was fascinated by ODG’s new “ruggedized” HazLoc glasses — made to military specs and safe to use even in hazardous locations with explosive gases or combustible dust, where even cell phones are banned. They cost $3,500, weigh less than 5 ounces (versus Hololens at 20 oz.), and look pretty cool. “Smart glasses will replace safety glasses,” says ODG’s Chief Operating Officer Pete Jameson. “In hazardous conditions, workers have to have glasses on anyway — why not make them smart?”
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