Forget Google Glass: Carl Zeiss's smart lens prototype proves smart glasses can be subtle

This could be the breakthrough that pushes smart glasses into the mainstream.

Two weeks before CES began, the engineers at Carl Zeiss internal Smart Optics lab were putting the finishing touches on a prototype that will give Google Glass a run for its money.

Despite tons of hype, Google’s first attempt at putting technology on your face never went mainstream, because it was incredibly obvious that you were wearing Google Glass (and no one wants to be labeled a “Glasshole”). Zeiss has created an unobtrusive curved smart lens that puts data directly inside the glass, rather than relying on a heads up display to augment reality.

I sat down with Kai Stroeder, managing director of Zeiss’s Smart Optics group, to find out how Zeiss’s smart lens works—check out the video above for that conversation—and it boils down to multiple light streams reflecting through a Fresnel lens, so the data you’re looking at isn’t projected on to the lens. The curved part is important: That makes it possible for the lenses to be worn in standard frames, and even come with prescriptions like your average lens. And no one looking at you can tell your glasses delivering data right in front of your eye, which is exactly where Google Glass went wrong.

Hands-on with the Smart Optics lens

I tried on a pair of prototype glasses and watched a demo reel of apps in the lens. Like Google Glass, information in Zeiss’s prototype lens is only really viewable if you focus on it. Once you do focus your eye, you can read text and see full-color photos with tons of detail. The image quality wasn’t completely clear, so I had a headache shortly after taking the glasses off. Stroeder said Zeiss has already developed a solution for that problem in the second version of its prototype.

Zeiss doesn’t make frames or operating systems, just lenses, which means it needs partners to create frames and power them with either an existing OS or a new one. Once the company finds a partner, it’s prepared to mass produce the lenses . Within a year or two, smart glasses might just become a real thing that people wear and not an unfortunate punchline.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags CES 2016Google Glass

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Caitlin McGarry

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?