Bose is moving its augmented reality eyewear out of the conceptual realm and into the consumer world, today opening up preorders for its audio-equipped Frames sunglasses. With an array of tiny speakers and a microphone built into the arms, Bose hopes the wearable will begin life as a personal audio device, but soon start augmenting realities by layering useful snippets of sound over what the wearer sees in front of them.
Bose's Frames are sunglasses first and foremost, shielding eyes from 99 percent of UVA/UVB rays with uniformly tinted lenses and weighing in at 45 g (1.6 oz). So pretty similar to a regular pair of sunglasses.
A very slim acoustic array is tucked away inside each arm to provide discreet stereo sound, while a microphone and multipurpose button are built into the frame over the temple. The button allows for pairing with a mobile device, along with touch controls for pausing and skipping songs, while the microphone allows for voice control through Siri and Google Assistant.
"Bose Frames are both revolutionary and practical," reckons Mehul Trivedi, director of Bose Frames. "They look and act like classic sunglasses — until you turn them on. And then you're connected to your phone, contacts, the web, and all its audible content, just like headphones. There's nothing else like them — they're a breakthrough you have to see, wear, and hear to believe."
Where Frames work differently to other eyewear with hardware built into them, like Oakley's Radar Pace, Epiphany Eyewear and certainly Google Glass, is the focus placed entirely on using sound to deliver an AR experience. There are no lenses onboard to capture photos or videos and no tiny screens to display information.
As the company's first commercial product to integrate its AR SDK, the glasses will use GPS and a 9-axis motion sensor to recognize where the wearer is and what they are looking at, and then connecting that location with informative audio. The software is still under development, but imagine turning up to the Coliseum and having your sunglasses give you a brief lesson in Roman history.
Only time will tell how well this works in practice, as more than a few tech startups and big names alike have vied for the smart glasses space and fallen short. But we won't have long to wait, with the Frames available from January 2019 for a price of US$199 in two styles, the larger "Alto" and smaller "Rondo." The dedicated Bose AR apps are to follow next year. Preorders, however, are available now.
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