Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Oakley working on heads-up technology that could match Google's Project Glass

Google isn't an eyewear company, thus its Project Glass may not seem like a good "fit" (pun intended). Oakley, on the other hand, is an eyewear company, and it's working on technology that would put it into direct competition with the Google X Lab project.

It's ironic, because first reports of Google's Project Glass said that the smartglasses looked a lot like Oakley Thumps (shown), which are combination sunglasses / MP3 players. Thumps have been around since 2004, and the latest version, the Thump Pro, costs $129 and has 512MB of storage.

Since the original report, though, new information has arisen indicating that the project is being tested in a variety of form factors.

Oakley Chief Executive Officer Colin Baden said “As an organization, we’ve been chasing this beast since 1997. Ultimately, everything happens through your eyes, and the closer we can bring it to your eyes, the quicker the consumer is going to adopt the platform.”

Oakley's initial target audience for the so-called heads-up technology would be athletes, Baden said. Further, Oakley might develop a similar product for the U.S. military through its Eye Safety Systems subsidiary, which focuses on eyewear for military and government agencies, he added.

Baden said,

“Obviously, you can think of many applications in the competitive field of sports. That’s the halo point of where we would begin, but certainly you can transcend that into a variety of other applications.”

While early versions of the product would not be cheap, according to Baden, it will be able to function on its own, but also working with a smartphone through Bluetooth, he said. That implies that the device might take data from the smartphone and project it on its lenses, rather than try to do everything itself, something theorized for Project Glass methodology, as well.

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As has been suggested for Project Glass, Oakley's device might also be controlled with voice commands, a la Siri or Android's Voice Actions.

Although you might think Google has an edge, being a tech company, Baden believe Oakley has a major advantage over Google and other tech companies: Oakley knows how to design fashionable eyewear.

It might seem obvious, and Baden said it, as well: “People get very particular when they put stuff on their face.”

He has a point. The Project Glass prototype seen worn by Google CEO Sergey Brin has been widely mocked, online.

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