Samsung Galaxy Glass wearable could be unveiled in September

S. Korean vendor wants to enter new market early and be seen as innovator

Samsung will unveil a Galaxy Glass wearable computer, a competitor to Google Glass, as early as September at the IFA trade show in Germany, according to unnamed officials quoted by a Korean news site.

Samsung will unveil a Galaxy Glass wearable computer, a competitor to Google Glass, as early as September at the IFA trade show in Germany, according to unnamed officials quoted by the Korea Times.

The report quotes a Samsung official saying the South Korean company hopes to be a market leader with the product, now called Galaxy Glass, adding that wearable devices like Samsung's own Galaxy Gear smartwatch "can't generate profits immediately."

Google's wearable computer Glass, above, could have some competition from Samsung, which may launch its own digital eyewear in September.

Samsung registered a patent with the Korea Intellectual Property Office last year for "sports glasses" that included a diagram of what many believe will eventually be Samsung's Galaxy Glass design. The device is linked to a smartphone for handling calls, but also has a USB connector that extends from the ends of the ear pieces on the sports glasses.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Samsung's patent in October.

It's not surprising that Samsung is working on a smart glass design, considering how quickly the company launched its Galaxy Gear smartwatch in late 2012 even though the smartwatch category is still emerging. The $300 Gear smartwatch uses Bluetooth to connect to certain Samsung smartphones and can be used to answer calls in a speaker phone mode. It also receives alerts and takes photos that are transferred to the phone and can be stored on a limited 1GB of storage on the Gear device.

Some analysts believe Samsung has had trouble selling the Gear smartwatch, but that the slow market won't hold back Samsung from working on new projects like Galaxy Glass, given the huge advantage of being a market innovator.

"Smart glasses won't become commonplace with consumers for five to 10 years," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy.

"Like other wearables, vertical implementations will be more successful than horizontal [for mass consumer adoption]," Moorhead said. "Samsung knows this too, but wants to be seen as an innovator and therefore would launch a smart glass product well before it becomes mainstream."

"Samsung will have a competitive product to Google Glass for competitive pressure and wanting to own emerging markets," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "Google Glass is not a mass market product because it is too complex and too expensive and not as user friendly as needed. It is rather a proof of concept. So I expect Samsung to try the same thing and likely sell more than Glass does just because of Samsung's sheer channel strength. But that doesn't mean it is a final consumer friendly product that's ready for market. Heads-up displays and virtual reality devices will take several more years before we see truly mature consumer-ready devices."

Head-mounted displays ranging from goggles to helmets have been on the market for years. They chiefly have been used by gamers as well as for industrial and military purposes.

Google Glass, now being tested by selected users for $1,500 apiece, has begun to take the smart glass concept to the masses and is expected to reach the general public toward the end of 2014, according to a Google FAQ.

Recently, Google announced that Google Glass is compatible with prescription lenses.

A number of Google Glass testers wore the product at the International CES trade in Las Vegas in early January. One woman wearing a Google Glass pair told a small crowd of curious CES bystanders that she had been wearing her pair as often as she could, but found it lost battery power quickly.

Calling attention to the fashion quotient needed when using wearable devices, the woman said it was hard to pull her long hair behind both ears while donning Google Glass because of the longer earpiece on one side where Google has located the battery.

Also at CES, Sony showed off a Smart Eyeglass prototype for augmented reality in gaming applications. Wearing the Sony Smart Eyeglass will provide information overlaid on your field of vision on a TV screen. Some have theorized Sony will use Smart Eyeglass, with added functionality, as a competitor to Google Glass.

Apple and Microsoft are also expected to enter the smart glass market, although not in 2014. IDC analysts recently predicted in a report that Apple won't introduce either smart glasses or a smartwatch in 2014, contrary to some rumors, preferring instead to offer a larger-display iPhone in 2014.

Still, more than a dozen smart glass products are expected to ship by mid-year, mostly from smaller vendors or vendors who have previously offered head-mounted displays for military and industrial uses. Prices will range from $79 to $3,000. The products include Epiphany Eyewear, GlassUp, Meta 1, Oakley Airwave 1.5, Optinvent ORA-S, ION Glasses, Recon Jet, Vuzix M100, Atheer Glasses, Technical Illusion CastAR, Icis Smartspecks and Lumis DK-40.

This article, Samsung Galaxy Glass wearable could be unveiled in September, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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This story, "Samsung Galaxy Glass wearable could be unveiled in September" was originally published by Computerworld.

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