At this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Deutsche Telekom and ZEISS unveiled the design of their smart glasses to attendees. The pair also brought in some friends to help show the wide range of applications that this technology is likely to have in the next few years.
Here are the key details from the presentation.
The two companies announced a joint venture, tooz technologies Inc., in order to expand their smart glasses partnership in early 2018. The underlying technology had already been presented to consumers at MWC 2017.
Both Deutsche Telekom and ZEISS hold a 50% stake in the new venture, which really functions as a way of tying together the various development projects that go into trying to bring the device and its related platform to market.
The partnership brings together two key aspects that are needed to make smart glasses a success. Firstly, the optical technology invented by ZEISS that allows data to be conveyed to the user and secondly, the delay-free connectivity provided by the telecoms provider. With both Apple and Amazon in the process of developing their own connected eyewear products, there is reason to think that being a first mover could have significant commercial benefits.
And with Goldman Sachs predicting that the VR/AR hardware market could be worth $110 billion by 2025, those benefits could be huge in value terms.
The device itself closely resembles a normal pair of glasses that a person can see others wearing many times each day. This is important to tooz, as they want the glasses to enhance rather than intrude into consumer’s lives.
"The goal is a pair of Smart Glasses acceptable to industry and consumers that is unobtrusive, suitable for day-to-day applications and offers the user tangible added value," says Dr. Ulrich Simon, Head of the Corporate Research and Technology at ZEISS.
Tooz has so far partnered with over 40 industry partners to develop specific applications for a wide variety of industries. The partners come from industry, commerce and science, and the range is an important plank of the tooz strategy. In theory, the device should be able to provide efficiency gains in any scenario where individuals or teams need a constant stream of real time information and also need to have their hands free.
"The diverse and economically promising development projects have confirmed for us that there will be a market for Smart Glasses as well as for business and end consumers," Christian Stangier, Senior Vice President of Connected Devices at Telekom, said.
"These scenarios range from logistics and maintenance to fitness and health applications."
The company called upon some its partners to give a demonstration of use cases that prove that smart glasses are not only closer than many think, but also that their adoption could be very diverse and widespread.
In the workplace
1000 realities, a Polish VR/AR startup, have created a virtual assistant that relays important information in real time to the user. The system creates a virtual map of the environment and then uses information from the glasses to show information based on where the person is looking. The system uses 5G to know exactly where the user is an environment.
The information shown can range from hazard warnings and directions to more innovative uses, such as bringing up the user’s desktop whenever they look at a blank screen or display surface. The key is making sure that the data overlay does not obscure a person’s actual vision.
In the operating room
The Institute of Medical Psychophysics (I-MPP) is using the glasses to reduce the “information overload” that medical professionals often experience in the operating room. The glasses can be used to direct specific information that most needs it, rather than adding it to the complex ann fast-moving operational environment.
This non-personalised stream of information has been linked to unnecessary deaths every year. The smart glasses simplifies each party’s job by giving them the information which is critical to their specific role.
In the air
Germany’s largest airline, Lufthansa, is using the glasses to make the flying experience better for both cabin crew and passengers. The company has been experimenting with smart uniforms, of which smart glasses would form an integral part.
Giving flight staff a constant stream of information through glasses would allow them to immediately identify passengers who have a query. For example, being able to see a person’s dietary preferences or relevant medical conditions could help staff provide a much more personalised service to passengers far more quickly.
The main challenge for developers is the high power and data requirements of the device and its applications.
A key factor in making smart glasses appealing to consumers will come with the emergence of 5G, which will allow and increased flow of information without draining a device’s battery. Once that crucial step is reached, consumers will be able to utilise different from factors, such as prescription glasses, sunglasses and protective goggles.