The return of smart glasses?

Here we go again.

Remember Google Glass? It was supposed to be the hit of the mid-’10s. And it wasn’t. It was, on the other hand, one of the most unreasonably hated gadgets of the decade. People felt uncomfortable thinking that someone was spying on them, and the product never really got out of a wide beta test.

No bad idea ever really goes away

It seems like people are starting to talk about smart glasses again. Improvements in transparent monitor technology have made it possible for these devices to offer a more augmented view of the world than ever before. Improvements in Bluetooth earbuds have led to tiny speakers that actually sound good, even wirelessly. And since no one quite knows what’s going to be popular in the next several years, someone’s inevitably going to try to get you to buy a pair of smart glasses.

Heck, it worked for smart watches

After nearly a decade of attempting to ram smart watch technology down our throats, Apple finally came up with some compelling reasons to buy one. They leaned in on older folks who want medical monitoring. They also managed to attract the attention of anyone who still wears a clownishly large Bluetooth earpiece by giving them a stylish option to replace it.

And with the watch ecosystem finally conquered, it seems like gadget makers have once again turned to glasses. I’ve already seen some of these devices advertised and I’m willing to bet you’ll see more. The only question is whether or not you will care.

The use case for smart glasses

A decade or more ago, I forecast what could be a use case for smart glasses. Using today’s augmented reality tech, a repair person could have an online repair manual that literally told them the next steps to take, pointing out screws that need loosening, parts that need replacing, and the like with uncanny accuracy. This would eliminate a lot of the training it takes to repair things. It would also be a lot better than the typical YouTube video people use now.

I could also imagine smart glasses being used for tourists, the same way that audio tours are used now. It could bring a lot of enjoyment to the experience of visiting a different city. But then, of course, it would also mark you as a visitor and open you up to threats from opportunistic criminals.

Will we hate smart glasses this time around?

Yes, I think we will. I don’t think this is going to be the moment that smart glasses technology takes off. Yes, there’s a little bit of a headstart this time. For the last several years, glasses have regained their status as fashion accessories, and that eliminates one hurdle for smart glasses. But all in all I don’t think people are going to jump into this technology because there still isn’t a really good use for it on a daily basis.

Of course you know something if you read this blog. In general I really only have about a 50/50 chance of getting any of these predictions right. Then again it’s always fun to look back on them when I’m wrong.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.