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Vuzix M100 smart glasses: hands on with the contender trying to beat Google Glass to market

Vuzix M100 smart glasses: hands on with the contender trying to beat Google Glass to market

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Almost exactly one year ago, we saw an early prototype of Vuzix's competitor to Google's Project Glass. It was pretty rough, so we were eager to see how much progress the company made since there. Enough, apparently, to release an SDK for developers to create apps for the M100 smart glasses, which run Android 4.0. The specs (pun intended) include shooting 720p video, 4GB of storage, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. The tiny screen sits under your eye and is a "mere" 800 x 480 pixels — but at this distance from your eye the effective size and resolution of the image is actually fairly impressive.

The device we handled was just a prototype, running a looped video that was watchable, if a little headache-inducing at first. Vuzix tells us that the unit we tried was pretty close to what it will be shipping, and that it should last around eight hours under typical usage. You can mount it either via an ear-loop or bands that go over or behind your head. One of the latter options seems best to us — while still light, there's no getting around the fact that you are strapping what amounts to a tiny smartphone to your head.

What Vuzix means "typical usage" is actually a little bit different from what Google does. Referring to "snackable information," Vuzix seems to think the best use cases involve alerts, some photos, and other apps that don't require your full attention most of the time. The M100 is actually best-controlled from a companion smartphone app that communicates with it via Bluetooth. You have a small touchpad that moves a mouse on the M100's screen, or you can launch apps directly on the smart glasses by selecting one on the phone. You can control most of the device via the three hardware buttons, but it's not likely to be a great experience.

It's meant to be a companion to your smartphone

Vuzix is being as aggressive as it can to get the product to market. No doubt the company would be tickled to release well before Google's Project Glass can get out the door. Google's project lead recently said that the featureset for Glass was "still in flux." Vuzix tells us that its featureset is also still in the works, but that it will be released in the summer for "under $500." Developers will be able to jump the line (for a cost) as early as the end of Q1.

Vuzix M100 smart glasses hands on