It's impossible to judge the value of a product that's still in the prototype stage, but if nothing else, the GlassUp augmented-reality smartglasses promise to address two problems with Google Glass: They make a slightly less nerdy fashion statement, and they place overlaid content closer to the center of your sight line, theoretically mitigating eyestrain. (Follow CES 2014 live, and get the latest CES news here.)
I welcome both of these features. I don't feel comfortable wearing Google Glass in public (except inside geek-friendly venues like CES 2014), and I have definitely experienced eyestrain during concentrated use of Google Glass, which places its content overlay in the upper-right periphery of your vision.
GlassUp is an Indiegogo project that's being developed by a small Italian firm, and we can definitely see some European design flare in the company's non-functional mock-up. At last year's CES, GlassUp simply handed out brochures. This year, they returned with two pieces of hardware. A design treatment showed what the shipping product will look like, while a very, very, very rough engineering sample showed a faint sliver of AR content in one's line of sight.
Francesco Giartosio, GlassUp's CEO, told me he's going for a simple, sober, streamlined approach to augmented-reality eyewear. Unlike Google Glass, the specs won't overwhelm you with a motherlode of content or even full-color images, he says. Instead, monochrome content is to fed to you as simple strings of text--text messages, email headers, sports scores--in a comfortable, easy-to-comprehend UI.
Notifications from accompanying iOS and Android apps route through Bluetooth to a single projection unit, and battery life is rated for 150 hours of stand-by, and eight hours of "normal" usage. About 100 to 200 hand-made units will go out to early crowd-funding backers this spring, and GlassUp estimates a final price of $400 when retail units ship in July.
I'm in the Google Glass Explorers program. I used the Epson Moverio specs and other smartglasses at this year's CES. And I don't think any of these smartglasses are ready for a mainstream, non-techy, consumer audience. But I do think GlassUp is on to something with its streamlined, much-less-than-the-kitchen-sink approach. Keep smartglasses simple. Make them look like real glasses. Use them as rudimentary, hands-free adjuncts to our smartphones. Less is more.