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Sony May Have a Hard Time Making Its Mark With Augmented Reality Glasses

Sony's SmartEyeglass developer kit, available in Germany and the UK, hits 10 countries in March

2 min read
Sony May Have a Hard Time Making Its Mark With Augmented Reality Glasses
Photo: Junko Kimura-Matsumoto/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Just as Google's withdrawal of Glass has raised doubts about augmented reality, Sony is debuting its own set of electronic glasses, the SmartEyeglass. But it’s a real question whether the gadget will do better than Glass or even if it will seem different enough.

Whereas virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift block a person's view of the real world, augmented reality headsets like those of Sony, Google, and Microsoft overlay images onto the real world to create a mixed reality, serving as hands-free displays. The SmartEyeglass Developer Edition is now available for pre-order in the United Kingdom and Germany for US $840 (£540 or €670), and available for sale in March in 10 countries, including the United States and Japan.

SmartEyeglass, which weighs about 77 grams, is equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, brightness sensor, and 3-megapixel camera, and it is compatible with the Android operating system. The glasses come with a badge-sized wired controller with a touch sensor, microphone, speaker and the device's battery, which is designed to be worn on clothes and enables a wireless connection to a smartphone. Text, symbols and images are displayed on a see-through 8-bit display in green—monochrome video uses less energy than a full-color display, Sony explained.

Sony is entering the augmented reality arena just as the consumer market for these devices was thrown into question by how Glass is apparently headed into limbo, although industrial and military markets for AR may still be healthy. Microsoft recently unveil a consumer augmented reality headset, the ski-goggle-like HoloLens, but unlike SmartEyeglass and Glass, the HoloLens is not intended to be worn all the time, potentially avoiding the many problems that using augmented reality headsets in public have raised, says Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at technology analyst firm Moor Insights & Strategy.

Although it is difficult to assess how successful the consumer product might be with only the developer version of SmartEyeglass available, "I don't see anything yet that would distinguish it from HoloLens or Glass," Moorhead says. "While Sony has had success building an ecosystem with Playstation, they've had a very hard time doing so in phones, tablets, or wrist wearables."

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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