Smart glasses are one of those techs that started out as a bit of a gadget type product but one that’s actually made the jump to a practical device that pretty much anyone can use. In this guide, we’re taking a look at what this eyewear actually does and if it’s something that’s worth buying now.
What exactly are smart glasses?
Smart glasses are a lightweight tech that you wear like regular sunny G’s but which have hidden features such as a camera, speakers and even augmented reality. You can wear them when it’s dark too, as the lenses will typically adjust to the light conditions at any time.
What makes smart glasses ‘smart’?
Specs and features
So let’s start off with a broad overview of what smart glasses do. With the quick warning that these are general features that may vary between manufacturers and at different price points.
- Microphone – Smart eye-wear has a discreet mic built-in for things like giving instructions to the voice assistant, recording memos, or taking calls.
- Bluetooth connection – Just like wireless headphones, to play your favourite music, you can simply connect them to any smartphone with Bluetooth. This is the same if you want to connect to your phone and stream calls from your phone.
- Touch controls – As well as using your voice, a lot of smart glasses let you use simple taps, touches or gestures to do things like change tracks, adjust volume or manage calls.
- Voice assistant – There was a time when Alexa was an exotic bit of tech that I wanted to show off to friends and family. Now, it’s become an everyday (and really handy) part of life. A lot of smart glasses have a voice assistant built-in. Think Tony Stark talking to his Iron Man suit, except you can’t blow stuff up with your glasses, it’s still pretty cool.
- Charging – You normally charge the Lithium Ion battery via USB, through your computer or a USB plug.
- Augmented reality glasses – a newer, more advanced form of specs that can change what you see through the lenses by showing images on them. A blend of VR technology and smart tech that means you could see anything from a dinosaur running around your local park, to your aunty standing in your kitchen even if she lives on the other side of the world.
- Storage – Video / photo smart glasses will typically have storage for your photos and video content if your pair has a camera.
dark fades to clear lense
Blue light filtering
Are they geeky?
Well, yes. But from a design perspective, absolutely not.
Early versions of smart glasses were admittedly severely bulky, clunky and often ugly things that just didn’t have the kind of mass-market appeal where everyone would wear them, tech nerds, or not.
More modern designs, especially from the designer brands have thankfully refined the aesthetics and modern glasses look just as good as non-smart ones.
Major brands, such as Razr have jumped on board and the glasses of today are actually really well designed with a sleek, modern appearance. The main tech, such as the battery, storage and electronics is packed discreetly into the arms, which are slimmer with each iteration and have a small form factor.
Looking at them from the front, you’d not know there was anything smart about modern sunglasses and you can’t see the camera lens unless you get really close to the person wearing them.
What are the benefits of smart glasses?
Go hands-free when making calls – OK, this isn’t anything new. Most of us know how to do this without phones. But because you’re wearing the mic, you’ll get much better audio and the person will be able to hear you better than if you just hit the speaker button on your phone while doing your work.
Play audio on the go – Wireless headphones are brilliant when you’re out and about and one of the main features you’ll find in any decent smart glasses are built-in speakers. The idea of playing audio through glasses might sound weird but the audio quality is great from what I’ve tried. Unless you’re in a confined space, you won’t bother other people either.
Great for gaming – From hearing who or what is creeping up behind you, to giving a heads up to a squadmate in the heat of battle, a good headset is a must for gaming. One clever use for these glasses is to use them for gaming as you’re getting that blue light protection for your eyes along with a good quality mic and audio for communication.
Protect your eyes – While this is something regular sunglasses do perfectly well, it’s worth mentioning that smart glasses also offer the same high level of UV protection you’d get from regular glasses.
Grab video or audio easily – Some, not all, smart glasses have a camera that’s capable of recording video as well as audio or taking pics. While the quality is still improving, you can find glasses capable of 4k recording, although they’re typically not the smoothest video when you turn your head quickly.
Can smart glasses replace your ordinary glasses?
As well as being a good replacement for holiday eyewear this year, smart glasses can often be bought with prescription lenses that mean you can use them instead of your regular spectacles.
A number of brands will work from your prescription and send you the glasses ready to wear. Not every make of smart Gs does this but check out Rayban’s Wayfarer glasses for a reliable (and great looking!) pair that does.
What’s the point in a camera on your glasses?
There’s definitely something that smart glasses do that you average camera can’t
One of the big questions with smart glasses is why would you need another camera when most of our phones are packed with superior cameras and all kinds of software and tech that can make taking pro pictures as simple as pressing a button.
There’s definitely something that smart glasses do that your average camera can’t though.
You can go hands-free
There are definitely things that are kind of a pain to use your smartphone camera for. Throwing your child in the air, playing with animals, riding a skateboard are all things you really need more than one hand for! Having a camera attached to your face means you can record footage that would normally not be possible.
You can record from your first-person perspective
While we can’t record memories directly, footage and pics taken from your eye level perspective offer something unique and kind of a more accurate recording of what was happening at the time. You can playback these videos and see exactly what you were experiencing at the time. You turn your head to look at a view and it’s all recorded, a bit more like a Go Pro.
Thinking of buying? What are some things to think about?
Equally as important as the resolution is how smooth the video will be.
Battery life – One stat that keeps magically going up on tech gear is of course how long devices last on a charge. This is definitely something that needs improving on smart specs, but you can expect 5 – 10 hours of use depending on which set you to buy.
Blue light filtering – Getting too much blue light can play all kinds of havoc with your sleeping patterns (speaking for experience). We’re just not meant to get bombarded with it as much as we do. Having some eye-wear that can filter this out, especially in the evenings, will mean you get more, better quality sleep.
Water protection – If you’re in the UK it’s all too common to get caught in a downpour in those months at the start of the year. While other glasses won’t mind, mixing the electronics in smart glasses with water could be a disaster if it doesn’t have the right protection. Look for a pair with an IPX4 water protection and you’ll be fine in showers. But they probably won’t survive going in the pool, or the bath!
Storage – If you’re going for a pair of video smart glasses, definitely check the storage. A good level is 64GB and to be honest unless the tech improves, you’ll likely run out of battery before you fill that. But it’s still an important stat to check before buying your new specs.
Camera lens quality – While smart glasses are way behind the quality you’ll get from an average budget smart camera, it’s still a spec you’ll want to look at. 5 megapixels seems about average for the time being and produces an OK – if not impressive – video quality. The higher you can get the MP spec, the better.
Video capture quality and resolution – While 4K is at the top end of the scale in terms of how sharp the picture will be, 1080p is still a normal level you can expect from a set of smart glasses at the moment. Equally as important as the resolution is how smooth the video will be. Look for glasses capable of 60fps as this will make for a much smoother playback whatever you’re watching your recorded videos on.
What are the downsides to smart glasses?
You have to charge them each day – As mentioned above, the amount of time you get per charge isn’t great with smart glasses – yet, at least. You’ll have to get into a routine of charging them each day if you’re planning on making them a regular thing.
They’re heavier than regular glasses – While something like the Razer Anzu looks absolutely stunning, they’re not the lightest glasses you could buy. At 304g, that’s a reasonably heavy thing to wear for long periods of time. They’re definitely curvy and comfortable so you’ll likely never notice but they’re definitely heftier than regular sunglasses.
The audio isn’t as good as a decent set of headphones – The audio is good from most smart glasses but clearly, it’s never going to match your apple air pods, or some over-ear headphones in terms of music quality. You might find the audio a little quiet at times too. But the audio on the glasses isn’t just a gimmick, they do still sound great!
What are some good smart glasses to buy?
Razer Anzu Smart Glasses – If you’re not bothered about having a camera on your smart glasses, this par from Razer might just do the trick. They look absolutely gorgeous and you’d never think that skinny frame had any smart tech in it at all.
This pair packs an integrated mic that you can use for calls and a good built-in set of speakers. There’s a nifty touch interface to let you access the features and you can expect around 5 hours of continuous use.
If you are looking for a good pair of glasses capable of recording high-quality video up to 4k, take a look at OHO’s 4K video sunglasses. Capable of recording 4k at 24fps or 1080p at 60fps, they still manage to maintain a sleek look about them.
There’s a decent level of water protection here, ideal for the UK’s weather and poolside splashes won’t harm them either. You’ve got 64GB internal storage here to fill with memories or just those random things you wish you’d had a camera for.
Summing up: Are smart glasses worth it?
Do they have any practical uses, or is this really just one for the geeks?
At the time of writing this, there are certainly some really good looking smart glasses on the market, with new models constantly one-upping the previous ones. While the image quality side of things could use some work, the current generation of glasses are easy to use and have many practical uses for work and entertainment.
You’ll have to decide whether or not you’re interested in taking pics and videos with your smart glasses, or if you’re more focused on the audio and hands-free talking side of things. Non-camera glasses are typically lighter, cheaper and less bulky in general.