Posted By Simon Montford on Feb 19, 2015
I love the concept of augmented reality, but like so many people, I find the appearance of augmented reality wearables unpalatable. No OEM thus far has been able to figure out how to shoehorn the required tech into such a small formfactor. Wearables need to be lightweight, and most importantly, stylish. Turns out Sony can't make wearable look good either.
Also I can't help thinking that both Sony's latest creation, and the company's other wearable concept are simply knee-jerk reactions to Glass, which led to this rushed attempt by Sony to get something out the door. I fear that, unless Sony is willing to learn from Google's failed attempt to create a wearable aimed at consumers, SmartEyeGlass will end up being nothing more than another still-born wearable product.
The sad truth is that the days when Sony set the benchmark for innovation are well and truly over, which is a shame. I used to be a huge Sony fan, but today I cannot honestly remember the last time I purchased a Sony product. The truth is that the Japanese OEM has become a follower, not a leader - and if Sony fails to pivot its market strategy, for this product, away from consumers and towards industry, it too will fail. The worst thing Sony can do is take an "if we build it they will come" approach to marketing strategy.
Instead Sony should cut their losses, skip the consumer market, and focus entirely on industrial and enterprise customers, which seemed to be their initial strategy when they first announced this initiative at CES in January. As I wrote in a previous blog, AR and VR will soon be widely deployed within all kinds of non-consumer verticals, because it's okay to look like a cyborg if, for example you're a soldier, or you're inspecting an industrial asset, or you're involved with law-enforcement (check out this week's episode of BBC Click about how augmented reality headsets are being combined with facial recognition 03:13/24:16).
In contrast, people who wear AR and VR wearables in bars, restaurants and shopping malls look creepy because people around them, understandably have major issues with being filmed without their consent. The other problem that continues to plague OEMs is the fact that almost all wearables currently available make the wearer look ridiculous. In the unlikely event that the SmartEyeGlass is a big hit with consumers, I expect products like Unplug (a product that blocks connected devices) will be in huge demand.
Developers should focus on building apps for industrial, military and corporate clients, not consumers, because these verticals are crying out for anything that can save lives and increase productivity. In fact almost every sector from logistics and warehousing to aircraft maintenance, and manufacturing are ripe for the picking. If you are planning to develop an app aimed at consumers, seriously I'd forget it for now, as the hardware simply isn't yet fit for purpose. AR and VR won't become popular with consumers until the form factor issue has been solved, and that will take time.
You can pre-order an ‘SED-E1 Developer Edition’ for £620 ($956) and gain access to the software developer kit, as well as download the Android app. The estimated shipping date is March. For those of you out there that aren't developers, you'll just have to wait till next year to get one, providing Sony doesn't follow suit and pull the plug.
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