Perhaps it is true that if all you have is a hammer every problem you see looks like a nail. When you think of augmented reality (AR), you usually think of something like the poorly-received Google Glass where your phone or computer overlays imagery in your field of vision. Bose isn’t known for video, though, they are known for audio. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that their upcoming (January 2019) AR sunglasses won’t feature video overlays. Instead, the $200 sunglasses will tell you what you are looking at.
The thing hinges on your device knowing your approximate location and the glasses knowing their orientation due to an inertial measuring system. In other words, the glasses — combined with your smart device — know where you are and what you are looking at. Approximately. So at the museum, if you are looking at a piece of art, the glasses could tell you more information about it. There’s a video showing an early prototype from earlier this year, below.
Does this make sense? Hard to say. A picture is worth a thousand words, so there are clearly some limits to what you can do with only audio. In fact, we’d dare say that despite the marketing phrase “Bose AR Enabled” the glasses aren’t really AR at all. It is more “position-aware audio.”
Of course, if you want to use them to listen to tunes, they’ll do that too. But so will earbuds and those will probably be more private. In fact, we were a little surprised these are built into sunglasses.
According to Bose:
From a technology perspective, the platform consists of truly aware audio devices that allow you to enjoy your digital audio alongside your real-world environment, a robust collection of sensors that enable a new heads-up, hands-free user interface, and developer libraries that enable partners to create new audio experiences in areas such as music, gaming, fitness, travel, and communications.
Battery life is 12 hours for standby and 3.5 hours for actual use with a 2 hour recharge time. The glasses are lightweight, but still quite a bit heavier than a conventional pair of sunglasses.
Unless a killer app appears, this looks like a swing and a miss. Earphones without cups and an orientation sensor doesn’t strike us as the next big product category. Then again, we aren’t marketing gurus, so maybe this is what every kid wants in their stocking. Remember, there’s no camera so you aren’t going to, say, look at a resistor and hear its value whispered in your ear.
If these were $25 or even $50, they might be a gimmicky replacement for headphones. At $200 we think it is a hard sell. If you want to do real AR, there are open source designs. The software is straightforward enough. Do you want these? Why? You could build your own version pretty easily? If you did, what would you do with it? Tell us in the comments.