Vuzix’s Blade 3000 augmented reality smart glasses are Google Glass reborn

vuzix blade 3000 ces 2017 rsz img 20170104 201343 1
Chances are you haven’t heard of Vuzix, an augmented reality startup that focuses principally on heads-up displays. That’s because the self-proclaimed “world leader in video eyewear technology” has historically unveiled its bleeding-edge products clandestinely, behind closed doors. But this year is different. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, Vuzix had its newest AR innovation, the Blade 3000, on full display.

The Blade 3000, true to its utilitarian name, looks a little like a bulked-up pair of protective eyeware. But in execution, it recalls Google Glass. A tiny projector embedded in the Blade 3000’s side powers a display affixed to the right lens, driven by a quad-core Intel Atom processor. An internal 64GB storage module (expandable via MicroSD card) files away the Blade 3000’s software and apps, and a Bluetooth 4.1 chip provides connectivity.

Myriad sensors, meanwhile, track the wearer’s gaze and location. The Blade 3000 sports a built-in GPS and directional sensors including a gyroscope, accelerometer, and hull sensors.  And a touchpad, replete with haptic feedback in the form of vibration, handles navigation, as does a built-in noise-canceling mic capable of voice recognition.

After trying on a pair of Blade 3000, this Digital Trends reporter came away impressed. The projected image — a demo video — appeared sharp and clear as it played in a loop. The lenses, which Vuzix says will eventually ship alongisde interchangeable lenses including prescription inserts, colors, and UV protection, were comparable to an off-the-shelf pair of sunglasses. And its trackpad responded quickly to both swipes and taps.

The Blade 3000’s software is firmly in the prototype stages, but Vuzix CEO Paul Travers showed an early demo of the Blade 3000’s menu — basically a horizontal scroll of app icons. The finished product will boast the ability to take calls, check messages, listen to music, perform web searches, serve up calendar alerts, text contacts, and post content to social media.

The software possibilities are virtually endless, Travers said. A fitness app could serve up activity tracking stats like distance and calories. A navigation app could provide turn-by-turn heads-up directions. And a directory app could overlay reviews atop real-world businesses.

But the Blade 3000’s social implications could put a dampen development. Google Glass, Google’s eponymous attempt at a heads-up AR display, became the subject of controversy as a result of its built-in camera, which privacy advocates said provided a surreptitious means to record subjects without their knowledge. Google Glass was banned from shops, bars, restaurants, and more before the search giant pulled the plug on public sales in 2014. Despite the popularity of Snapchat’s augmented reality Spectacles, it remains to be seen if the broader public’s comfortable with the idea of always-on electronic glasses.

The Blade 3000’s success rides, too, on the willingness of developers to support it. The hardware limitations of Google Glass led developers to abandon development for the platform.

That’s why Vuzix is taking an alternative launch approach. It will engage businesses and enterprise when the Blade 3000 launches later this year, and doesn’t have concrete plans to launch a consumer version — an approach with which Google found success. The search giant’s enterprise Glass for Work program saw General Motors workers tested the device on production line and med students at UC Irvine used the augmented reality glasses to watch surgical procedures from the view of the surgeon in charge.

It will likely have competition. Google is reportedly developing as many as three Glass-like devices “without displays,” including one targeted at enterprises, and debuted an improved model with an improved battery, support for faster wireless, and an external battery pack

Product Review

Google’s Pixel 3 is a hair away from pocket-sized perfection

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphone is the best Android phone you can buy. It doesn’t have the best looks or the best hardware, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better software and unique A.I. functionalities.
Photography

Dual cameras for Spectacles 3? Report suggests Snap-designed glasses with AR

Despite underselling the first generation, Snap Inc. isn't done with camera glasses yet. According to a recent report, the company is rumored to be working on another Snap Spectacles with dual cameras for augmented reality features.
Emerging Tech

Glass orb packs all the constellations in the night sky into fancy desk ornament

Ever wanted to know more about the star constellations? A stunning new Kickstarter campaign, taking the form of a fancy desk ornament that re-creates the night sky in a glass orb, aims to help.
Product Review

Mediocre battery and a big notch slight Google's otherwise perfect Pixel phone

Google’s Pixel 3 XL has two big flaws: The gigantic notch on the front, and mediocre battery life. That being said, this is the best Android experience you can find in a smartphone today.
Mobile

5G version of upcoming Galaxy S10 may feature 6.7-inch display, six cameras

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Mobile

Photos attributed to midrange Google Pixel Sargo suggest flagship-quality camera

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a third. A budget Pixel 3 that boasts some of the best features of the other two has been leaked.
Smart Home

You can now make Skype calls on Amazon Echo devices

Amazon's Alexa can now make video and voice calls with Microsoft's Skype audio and video calling. Alexa-enabled devices can make voice calls. Alexa devices with video can make video calls to computers, mobile devices, and Xboxes.
Mobile

T-Mobile OnePlus 6T phones get some improvements in update

The new OnePlus 6T continues OnePlus's tradition, coming with flagship power, camera performance, and the gorgeous design you want -- but for under $600. Here's everything you need to know about the OnePlus 6T.
Mobile

Sprint offers holiday buy one, get one free deal for iPhone XR lease

After months of rumors and speculation, Apple has finally taken the wraps off of the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now that the phones are out, you might be wondering how you can get them for yourself.
Mobile

Google replaces its classic Search page with Discover on mobile devices

As part of its 20th anniversary, Google unveiled its plans to improve Search, starting with its Google Feed. Now known as Discover, the update brings along a redesign to help you find content that aligns with your interests.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.
Deals

The best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…
Mobile

How to find a lost phone, whether it's Android, iPhone, or any other kind

Need to know how to find a lost phone? We have a simple guide right here that will help you to locate your lost or stolen phone using both native and third-party apps and services, whether it’s a smartphone or an older model.