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A smarter approach to smart sunglasses?

Posted by James on 18th May 2015

As regular readers will know, one area of the sunglasses industry I often cover, is the intersection of technology and sunglasses design. Today, I want to share some ideas about a new sunglasses technology and the problem it seeks to solve.

Allow me to explain.

Sunglasses technology and the delicate balance

Many of the world’s leading technology companies are investing heavily in so-called wearables. These wearable devices, thus far, have tended to be eyewear (sunglasses / glasses) or watches. Obviously, I focus on eyewear. And it’s eyewear that provides a huge safety challenge for designers.

With wearable technology glasses or sunglasses, (smart sunglasses) what happens is the inside of the lens becomes a HUD or Heads Up Display. As you look at the world through your sunglasses, it’s like there’s a small computer screen superimposed on one of the lenses. At a glance, you can see almost anything that you can display on a smartphone screen. This is great for watching movies on when you're on a flight or reading email on the bus to work.

A huge market for smart sunglasses are athletes - cyclists, runners, skiiers etc. Smart sunglasses can provide them with extremely useful information. Imagine someone running or cycling a route for the first time. Well, now they can have a map right in front of them, showing them where they are on the map and making sure they don’t get lost. They can also see live data of things like their heart rate, speed etc.

The challenge comes when the display becomes a little too distracting. If a cyclist is spending too much time looking a the display inside their sunglasses and too little time monitoring the road ahead… it can result in serious injury.

Understandably, as wearable technology providers compete to make the most attractive product, they’re pushing the limits. They’re making their displays increasingly powerful. Yes, this is excellent if you’re using your sunglasses to watch a movie on a flight. However, if that same HUD is offering a cyclist mapping or fitness information and it’s too vivid or distracting, it could be a very different story.

Smart sunglasses without a HUD

I recently came across a device, which uses an idea that could provide an answer to the distraction problem. It’s for athletes, who want access to core training data while running or cycling, without the distraction of a high tech display in front of them. 

The Sportiiiis device simply clicks onto your existing sunglasses. Instead of projecting a high tech display onto the inside of your sunglasses, it simply has a series of 7 colored lights. It gathers data from a compatible, paired monitoring device. It then compares your performance against your target workout performance. So, for example, if you’re running or cycling too fast, you see a red light telling you to ease up. 

Whether this kind of device is the answer to safer wearable technology or not remains to be seen. 

However, I can’t help thinking that manufacturers of the HUD based devices should consider offering a mode, where users can choose to see just a simple, colored light system.

And finally folks!

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