Sony's prototype EyeGlass smart specs eye up Google Glass

Sony's second generation of EyeGlass is a rival to Google Glass, but the opposite specs won't like these specs.

Richard Trenholm

Richard Trenholm

Movie and TV Senior Editor

Richard Trenholm is CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture over the past 15 years from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.

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Sony has its eye on Google Glass with a new concept set of smart glasses -- but at this stage, anyone wearing Sony Smart EyeGlass makes a spectacle of themselves.

This is the second, much slimmed-down version of Sony's smart glasses concept, but they're still pretty bulky. It is still a prototype so there's no price, specs -- specs, geddit?! -- or release date yet.

Sony's smart spectacles are similar to Google Glass, the smart specs already on sale. They're nowhere near as elegant as the wire-frame Google Glass, looking more like a pair of unwieldy 3D glasses than the unobtrusive Glass, and they sit slightly proud of your face -- in their current form, the Sony specs are a pair of conspicuous goggles rather than a wearable people won't notice you're wearing.

Bulky and sitting slightly proud of your face, the Sony Smart EyeGlass specs aren't as unobtrusive as Google Glass. Rich Trenholm/CNET

The glasses work by projecting information from your Android phone onto the lens as head-up display, so the words appear to hover in crisp green lettering over your view of the world in front of you. It's a bit like in a fighter pilot's view in the cockpit of a jet plane, except with recipes and your email instead of missile lock on a bogey. So yes, if you want to walk around wearing these things, go ahead and tell yourself you're just like a fighter pilot.

Sony's suggestions for Smart EyeGlass include showing you a recipe as you cook, keeping your hands free to stir and season, getting rid of the need to turn pages in a recipe book with sauce-enstickened hands. And when you're out and about it offers you augmented reality, overlaying useful information over the real-world view in front of you. Sensors in the specs can tell which way you're facing and track the movements of your head so the information in the head-up display corresponds with what you're actually looking at.

The system is linked to your phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, so the glasses could potentially tie into your contacts and use facial recognition to identify people you meet -- handy for those embarrassing "Oh hi... er, I want to say... Crispin?" moments.

Unlike Google Glass, the controls aren't on the glasses themselves. Instead, you use a remote control about the size of a hockey puck. Adding a cumbersome remote to a wearable gadget is some typically Sony missing of the point, but it does at least get around the size restriction of trying to add controls to a pair of specs without making them huge.

There's a touchpad on the remote and a camera button to fire the camera that's built into the glasses themselves -- but the main reason for the remote is to house the battery, which in this version is too big to wear on your face. Before the Smart EyeGlass goes on sale the battery will be slimmed down so you don't need the remote.

You can at least control the glasses by speaking, with apps recognising your voice commands. But the mic is in the remote, which is a bit daft.

Still, it's only a prototype. And Sony does say that eventually the glasses will scan your eye movements to scroll through the information on the screen.