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When Everybody Starts Wearing Smartglasses, Google Won't Be the Only Player

May 2, 2013 | Telepresence Options

Epson Android Moverio BT100

Story and Images by Paul McDougall / Scientific American

Google Glass�is just the beginning. The search giant's smartglasses are in the headlines, but numerous other players are also looking to cash in on what's expected to be a boom in eyewear that puts virtual and augmented reality face-front.

Smartglasses overlay digital information onto the wearer's view of the real world. Usage scenarios are limited only by developers' imaginations. Google Glass has apps for search, navigation, photo capture and sharing, to name a few. Commercial possibilities include enhanced vision systems for use in�manufacturing, engineering, health care and other industries. A surgeon could have all of a patient's vital information literally in front of his eyes while operating, for example.

There'll be no shortage of smartglass systems in as little as one to two years. Research firm�Gartner�says there are about a dozen companies with products in the works, many of them ready for prime time. There could be as many as 10 million smartglasses sold worldwide by 2016, if software developers can come up with appealing applications that provide wearers with useful, nonobvious information about their surroundings, according to�IMS Research, which defines smartglasses as "wearable computers with a head-mounted display." Without good apps, the number of smartglasses sold could number only about one million by 2016, IMS adds.

"This stuff is bubbling up and it's going to happen," says�Trae Vassallo, a partner in venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which has joined with fellow firms Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures to fund smartglass app development. Vassallo sees big potential: Kleiner Perkins's investment will "depend on the quality of the ideas and the entrepreneurs."

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