This year marks the tenth anniversary of Google Glass — the ill-fated experimental smart glasses that cost a fortune, weirded people out and succeeded in popularising the term “glassholes” before being discontinued after just four years.
Surely a decade’s worth of progress, R&D and miniaturisation means that a 2023 pair of smart glasses would be entirely different? No, they’re still struggling to find a purpose and still look ridiculous — unless you want to cosplay as a 1980s cartoon baddy.
Meet Xiaomi’s Wireless AR Smart Glasses Discovery Edition concept. It’s an AR headset that lets you have a screen permanently in front of your face, as if that was somehow desirably rather than a depressing satire on modern life.
Well, I say “permanently” — but XDA Developers’ half-hour hands-on session needed to be paused for a charging break, so it sounds like you’d be getting regular time away whether you want it or not.
Technologically, it all sounds quite impressive. It uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 1 chipset found in the NZ$2699.99 Meta Quest Pro and it packs a pair of microOLED screens (max brightness: 1,200 nits) with two “free-form, light-guiding” prisms with a pixel density that means you won’t be able to spot the squares.
It weighs just 126g which is light, but still quite heavy for something that sits on your face. For comparison, a pair of Ray-Ban Stories AR glasses weigh just 49g.
But the big question still remains “why” and I’m not convinced that’s been answered. The video accompanying the concept (above) shows someone dragging a TV image onto their screen, flipping web pages with a gesture and turning off connected smart lights by looking at them and pinching their fingers.
All neat party tricks, sure, but massive screens already exist, as do mice for navigating webpages. And as for controlling lights, wall-bound switches are already a thing, and for the truly lazy there are apps and voice controls. Is pinching the fingers really any more convenient? I’d say not.
This is still a concept and whether the reason it’s not a real product yet is for battery, comfort, pricing or practicality reasons, it still feels we’re a long way from a device that people will want to buy, let alone wear in public. No wonder Apple — arguably the only company with the power to make unfashionable things fashionable — has put its own smart glasses plans on the backburner, according to reports.