Sony SmartEyeglass & Attach hands-on review: pre-order now

The Developer Edition of Sony's SmartEyeglasses first seen at CES 2015 are now available to pre-order from Sony for £540 plus VAT. Here's our hands-on review.

Sony has been developing head-mounted displays to rival the Google Glass for a while now, but during CES 2015 the company showed off the most advanced prototypes of its SmartEyeglasses yet, as well as a new idea called the SmartEyeglass Attach, which, as the name suggests, attaches to your own glasses or sunglasses. We spent some time with both wearables to bring you a hands-on review of the company's progress in the smartglasses market so far. See also: 12 best wearable tech products 2015

Sony SmartEyeglass hands-on review

The SmartEyeglass prototype being demoed at CES 2015 was the Developer Edition of the smartglasses, designed for developers to enable them to create apps that work with the device. It'll become available in March, so from then on you can expect to see lots more apps that bring new capabilities and uses for the SmartEyeglass.

Right now, the SmartEyeglasses have thick frames that house two lenses that act as the displays in front of both eyes, unlike the Google Glass, which has a prism that's situated in front of your right eye and doesn't actually require any lenses to be fitted into the frame. They're currently so thick and chunky that they look pretty ridiculous, as you can see below, modelled by yours truly.

Also different from the Google Glass is the way you control the Sony SmartEyeglass. The Google Glass has a battery, microphone and touchpad housed inside a suitably small chassis that is attached to the right of the glasses themselves, but the SmartEyeglass prototype currently requires a small, puck-shaped device that is attached to the glasses by a wire and can be clipped onto your clothing. It's less than ideal, but we're sure Sony will eventually come up with a better way to provide the battery, microphone and gesture control system to the glasses.

You'll also need an Android smartphone or tablet to connect to the SmartEyeglasses via Bluetooth.

When wearing the Sony SmartEyeglass, you'll see reasonably large, transparent green text and graphics layered over the world around you that can help you achieve various tasks – there's no colour display for the SmartEyeglass prototype yet.

The glasses themselves have a camera, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope and brightness sensor built-in, tracking when you move your head from side to side to help you navigate, use the facial recognition technology and more. Among the apps being shown off by Sony as part of the SmartEyeglass demo were an AR Shooting Game, a clever speech translation app that we imagine could come in handy while travelling, and the aforementioned factional recognition and navigation/map app too.

Sony SmartEyeglass Attach hands-on review

The SmartEyeglass was interesting and fun to play with, but what really caught our eye as a potentially successful consumer product was the SmartEyeglass Attach, which is a device that attaches to your own glasses or sunglasses to turn them into head-mounted displays.

Unlike the SmartEyeglass but more in-line with the way the Google Glass works, the SmartEyeglass Attach features a tiny prism that floats in front of your right eye, creating a discreet display that can be easily ignored until required. Also similar to Google Glass is the fact that the battery is attached to the side of the glasses rather than in a separate part like the SmartEyeglass.

You can find out more about Google Glass in our full review and video.

The prototypes shown at CES 2015 were already attached to Sony-provided glasses, so we didn't get to test how easily it can be removed or attached, but it felt light and certainly looked a lot better than the SmartEyeglass while being worn. In addition to a normal pair of glasses, Sony demonstrated that the Attach could be clipped to goggles while snowboarding or skiing, perhaps.

If Sony brings the SmartEyeglass Attach to market, it'll be primarily aimed at the sport and fitness market, as it works well with sports-related apps. The demo showed how the Attach could be used to map out a run and follow it without needing to regularly check a map or your smartphone, and how it could be used to provide hole information while golfing, for example. It's not independant, though, so you'll need to carry smartphone in order to use it.

However, Sony will be allowing third-party developers to create apps for the SmartEyeglass Attach, so we could see a huge variety of different uses if the developers start getting imaginative and experimenting with other ideas.

There's no word yet on a release date or pricing for the Sony SmartEyeglass Attach, but it could be an exciting new entry into the wearables market. As far as smartglasses go, the SmartEyeglass Attach makes the most sense to us in terms of practicality and mass appeal, so we're looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this new product.

OUR VERDICT

Sony's smartglass development is certainly developing quickly, and it's fantastic to see a new idea from the company that we think could pave the way to a successful head-mounted display for consumers. We'll be watching Sony closely in anticipation of its next move in the wearables market, which is growing rapidly more populated despite the lack of final products.