April 18, 2012
Oakley Follows Google with News of Digital Glasses Development
Enid Burns for RedOrbit.com
Virtual reality is taking a step toward becoming more real. While the science fiction vision of having data and video streamed directly to the brain is still years away - if we even want to get there - several developers are working on accessories that put computing right in front of the eyes. Following last week's news out of Mountain View, Google's Project Glass, Oakley reportedly says it's been working on enhanced glasses for about 15 years.
The athletic eyewear company didn't give many details on the features for its long-in-development project. Oakley CEO Colin Baden told Bloomberg the glasses would be marketed first to an athletic audience. "That's the halo point of where we would begin, but certainly you can transcend that into a variety of other applications," Baden said in the article.
Oakley has filed about 600 patents over the past 15 years of development with these digitally enhanced glasses. In the meantime, the company has developed and released a line of sunglasses with built-in MP3 players dubbed the THUMP line. Oakley also has a line with Bluetooth support, which is marketed under the name O ROKR and RAZRWIRE.
Audio is likely to be an input and control device for any type of digital glasses. This puts Oakley ahead with audio sunglasses products already at market.
Google and Oakley won't be the first to put digital eyewear on the market, particularly the athletic market. A heads up display product from 4iiii, called Sportiiiis, is a pair of glasses that tracks and reports target heart rate for cyclists and runners. Recon Instruments also has ski goggles that put vital information in front of skiers' eyes such as speed, altitude, distance and temperature.
Between Oakley and Google, core competencies may win out as to which company gets in front of users' eyes. Oakley's experience as a lifestyle and athletic eyewear company puts it ahead in the design department. Google's abilities as an internet and social media company may just place its offering among a wider user base, if it can conquer the design.