Google Glass competitors vie for attention as industry grows

Some similar products for industrial and military applications hope to gain traction

By Zach Miners, IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless, augmented reality, Google Glass

Plenty of eyes may be focused on Google Glass as the device attracts attention in the field of "augmented reality," but a crop of other players developing their own glasses-like products are also hoping to stand out as the industry matures.

Take Scope Technologies, which has partnered with Epson to develop computer-assisted glasses it calls the "augmented reality training system," designed to help guide the user through complicated industrial maintenance processes like assembling fuel pumps, making changes to HVAC systems, or fixing broken car parts.

The glasses, which launched last September, use a built-in camera to provide instructions and animated diagrams to the wearer, which are overlaid directly on the person's field of view as he or she goes about completing the task. Computer CAD models that are fed into a content management system are used to provide content for the unit

Part of the idea behind the product is to address the problem of having to constantly stop and refer back to a manual. "It's about going back to the ancient way of doing things to show you what to do," said Scott Montgomerie, chief technology officer at Scope. The company hopes its device, which sells for about US$700 and looks like a bulkier form of wraparound sunglasses, can be used in a variety of industries such as oil, the military and aerospace.

As for how its aesthetics compared to Google Glass? "We think it's less geeky," said Montgomerie.

Scope Technologies is among roughly a half dozen groups exhibiting glasses-like devices Tuesday and Wednesday at Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, California, an annual trade show focused on showcasing "augmented experiences" across nearly all aspects of life including commerce, education, industrial, government, architecture and automotive applications. More than 50 companies and research groups are exhibiting at the show.

Another player is Seebright, which is developing a headset called Spark, designed to provide immersive experiences to users based on existing technologies like Bluetooth sensors and gaming peripherals via Wi-Fi. The head-mounted unit lets users drop their iPhone or Android device into a slot like it's a toaster, and uses a series of mirrors to expand and wrap the displayed image around the user.

Applications could include the ability to watch movies across a wearer's full field of view through the display like a personal Imax screen, or educational content like 3D renderings of anatomical models or human skeletons, said Seebright CEO John Murray.

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