Google Glass will not be the preeminent smart glassware for much longer.
According to a report from The Korea Times, Samsung will unveil its own smart glasses later this year called Galaxy Glass, which will extend the wearable gadget market later this year. The report also says Samsung plans to announce Galaxy Glass at Berlin’s IFA trade show in September.
The announcement of Galaxy Glass closely mirrors Samsung’s first foray into the mass wearable market last year when it announced its Galaxy Gear smartwatch (along with the Galaxy Note 2 phablet) at last year’s IFA. Samsung will join Sony, which announced “Smart Eyeglasses” at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, as a manufacturer of smart glasses next to Google.
It is difficult to see how the entrances of Samsung and Sony into the smart glasses space is competition for Google. After all, Google Glass is not yet a consumer product but a $1,500 beta prototype in the hands of only a few thousand people. Google has not made any official announcements to make Glass a consumer product, nor has it lowered the entry price for Glass.
The report from The Korea Times does not say whether or not Galaxy Glass will be produced in conjunction with Google or use a semblance of the Android operating system that Google uses for its smart glasses. The report does state that Galaxy Glass will pair with a smartphone for Internet connectivity and notifications, just as Google Glass (and smartwatches like the Qualcomm Toq, Galaxy Gear and Pebble) do.
Google cooperates with its manufacturing partners to build Android-based smartphones and tablets, so it would not be out of the realm of possibility if Google also had input on the design and software of wearable devices made by the likes of Samsung and Sony.
A High Tide
Depending on who you talk to, wearable gadgets like smartwatches or Google Glass will either be niche accessories or the next big thing in computing. Companies like Samsung and Sony don’t want to get caught in catch-up mode if wearable tech becomes a boom market and are establishing themselves as early movers.
By establishing market presence, Samsung and Sony are doing Google a huge favor. The more people that wear smart glasses, the more socially acceptable it will become and the more consumer interest it will accumulate. Google Glass is the absolute first mover in this space, so if Google can use its manufacturing partners to establish a real market for smart glasses, Google will only benefit if and when Glass hits the consumer market.
The Korea Times quotes an unnamed official from analyst group Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI), noting the potential of wearable devices and Samsung’s first mover status:
Smart glasses will widely be used in cars and trucks. Self-tinting glass, self-cleaning glass, self-healing glass and automotive display glass are the things. Latest trends in automotive infotainment systems are urging Samsung, Google and Sony to put more resources into smart glasses.
As of yet, Google Glass is definitely not considered socially acceptable. The latest episode of The Simpsons pointed out how utterly creepy Google Glass can be. A man was recently detained by the Department of Homeland Security for wearing Google Glass in a movie theater (they thought he was pirating the movie by recording them from the device) and drivers have been stopped for wearing Glass on the road. Google Glass is far from becoming socially acceptable, partly because its capabilities and user behavior are misunderstood and partly because the current crop of Glass users will wear the device everywhere and anywhere, even if it in highly inappropriate situations like movie theaters.
Wearable technology is not going to fade away. The use cases and inherent value of these devices is only now just taking shape, while the mass of developers and manufacturers building devices like smartwatches and Google Glass clones is starting to gain inertia. But the best thing for Google is to have companies like Samsung and Sony building similar devices in order to break through social mores and promote wearables as something that can be used, understood and appreciated by everybody.
Top image: Google Glass users attend Google I/O 2013. Side image: ReadWrite’s Taylor Hatmaker using Google Glass outdoors.