There's no question that mobile phones are the Mother of All Convergence Devices. In the past 10 years, bland, single-purpose mobile phones have assimilated digital cameras, media players, PDAs, GPS devices, camcorders and much more.
This is a welcome trend. Convergence means we get to carry these toys everywhere we go, and without filling our pockets, wearing a Batman utility belt or lashing a dorky fanny pack to our midsections.
Mobile phones are great for convergence because we always carry our phones. Stand-alone digital cameras, GPS devices and others might be left at home most of the time, but anything built in to the camera goes everywhere.
But phones aren't the only objects carried everywhere. Sunglasses, wristwatches and pens go, too -- and that's why they're getting the convergence treatment.
Suddenly, a new generation of these gadgets is shaking up the gizmosphere. Here's what's new:
MP3 camera sunglasses
Music-playing sunglasses have been around for a while, and the newest versions from Oakley offer integrated MP3 electronics and Bluetooth connectivity to your existing player. A huge number of copycat music-playing sunglasses have emerged as well. One particularly nice alternative to Oakley, from iSonic, plays MP3s and also lets you record voice notes.
Secret spy sunglasses designed to record pictures or video are also nothing new, usually available at very high prices from shady spy shops and online catalogs. Spy sunglasses typically have the lens hidden in the frame with a wire that leads to a pocket where the actual camera is concealed.
New sunglasses take all this to a new level.
Camcorder Spy Sunglasses take the spy-camera concept and bring it in from the cold. Cables are unnecessary because all camera electronics are built directly into the frame.
I think it's a great way to carry a regular camera all the time, but a lousy "spy" camera. It doesn't look like a regular pair of sunglasses. And it doesn't have a hidden or wireless shutter button -- you have to reach up and click the button in order to take a picture.
The built-in camera/camcorder features a 1.3-megapixel camera with 2 GB storage built-in, plus a microSD slot for additional storage. It connects to your PC via USB. The glasses cost US$186.
Another product called Aigo Camera Sunglasses takes eyewear to a new extreme by combining both the Oakley MP3 concept with the built-it-all-into-the-frame idea. These glasses do it all, and without external wires. (There is a wireless remote for snapping pictures.) You can buy them at Brando for US$165.