While Google Glass might be the better known face of wearable augmented reality devices, Vuzix was on the show floor at CES 2014 showing off the first smart glasses available to the general public.
Called the Vuzix M100 is an Android-based wearable computer first made its appearance at CES 2013 as a product demo. Now with the M100 being slightly closer to its final build and shipping to customers, we got a chance to go eyes-on with the heads-up display.
Looking through the M100
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Like the Google Glass, the Vuzix M100 presents users with a heads up display just a few inches away from their eyeball. The key difference here being instead of projecting information onto a clear eyepiece, Vuzix uses a miniature 428 x 240 color-LCD.
On paper, looking at the M100's miniature screen is akin to looking at a 4-inch mobile device from 14-inches away. In actual practice, the screen pops into the corner of our eye wrapped in a thin black frame that still lets us see plenty of our peripheral vision.
The screen stays on and in view at all times, but we had to glance over occasionally to focus in on any text that was on the display. It also takes a bit of setup time to extend the flexible arm the screen comes attached to and bend it into view. Completely unlike Glass, which we can just throw on and use.
Visual aesthetics aside, the Vuzix built up the M100 to be a standalone Android device complete with a 1GHz OMAP4430 processor with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage.
On top of the hardware, the computer headset we played around with came running Android Ice Cream Sandwich. A Vuzix spokesperson said that they also plan on creating an icon based overlay that users can navigate with gestures captured with a light sensor on the main body of the M100.
The demo M100 build we our hands on with was extremely limited. On the trade show floor Vuzix decided to disable the gesture sensing light on the side as well as all the buttons on the device itself. So instead of using the device ourselves, we got a guided tour through an Android smartphone remote controlling the optic over Wi-Fi.
We were shown two features involving the camera, one of which directed a regular video feed coming from the M100's 5-megapixel camera, which could also stream footage directly to a computer over Wi-Fi.
The other, meanwhile, was able to translate a sign from Italian to English and overlay the translation on top of the actual real-life object. Beyond these two functions, Vuzix hopes it and other developer will be able to develop more useful applications for down the line.
A Vuzix spokesperson said the M100 has a 600mAh battery that lasts eight hours on standby. This battery life, however, becomes dramatically shortened to two hours when using hands-free calling mode and the screen at the same time. Luckily it comes with a portable power pack that adds an additional 3800mAh of power for 6.5 times more energy.
Very early verdict
The Vuzix M100 build has a lot of missing or still to be developed functionality and it's a hardly a smart glass platform we can recommend considering its high $999.99 or £799.99 (about AUD$1112.71) price. Most of the M100 is still in progress, which is a shame considering it packs all the usual smartphone hardware, including gyroscopes, into small headset.
Perhaps a future, more complete build will be more tantalizing, but for now the Vuzix M100 is best left on the shelf for developers and enterprising industries that actually have the budget to blow a grand on new technologies.