Report: Amazon readying launch of Alexa-powered smart glasses
According to a report in Financial Times, Amazon is working on “smart glasses” powered by its intelligent agent, Alexa. The report says that the glasses would look “like a regular pair of spectacles” and would require a mobile phone connection to operate.
The glasses could be unveiled before the end of the year. Apple is also rumored to be working on smart glasses, but with an emphasis on augmented reality experiences. However, any product launch from the iPhone maker is said to be “a ways off.”
Asked for comment, Amazon declined to confirm or deny the report.
Babak Parviz, one of the engineers who created the unsuccessful Google Glass headset, is a VP at Amazon and reportedly has been “closely involved” with the Amazon smart glasses project.
Google Glass failed because it was awkward looking, too costly and socially controversial. People were concerned about privacy and being filmed without their knowledge by those wearing Google Glass headsets. Apparently, the Amazon glasses won’t have a camera. But they will have a “bone-conduction audio system” that will allow Alexa audio playback without ear buds.
As the Google Glass example indicates, success with smart glasses is far from certain. In 2016, Snapchat launched “Spectacles,” which were initially popular because of their novelty and scarcity but which have failed to go mainstream. However, they have the advantage of looking much more like conventional sunglasses.
To succeed, Alexa-powered glasses would need to meet at least three criteria:
- They would need to be aesthetically acceptable and comfortable to wear (and not subject the wearer to social ridicule).
- They would need to be useful and functional (moving beyond pure novelty to actually accomplish something).
- They would need to be relatively affordable (under $500 and probably under $300).
There’s no discussion in the Financial Times article about prescription glasses wearers and whether there’s any accommodation for them. The report also says that Amazon may launch additional smart home products around the same time — presumably in time for holiday shopping.
It’s conceivable that smart glasses could ultimately replace many of the functions of the smartphone. But that day is probably years away, if ever.
What’s exciting, however, is that Amazon has stepped up product innovation around its virtual assistant and is shaking up the market, forcing competitors, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, to respond with new consumer hardware and software experiences.