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Andy Rubin’s Essential is looking into smart glasses with built-in camera

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New patent filing shows a Google Glass successor

Photo by Asa Mathat / Recode

Essential, the new hardware outfit from Android co-founder Andy Rubin, may branch out from phones and smart home accessories into Google Glass-like smart frames. An old patent filing, dug up by the folks at Patently Apple and granted prior to its big phone reveal this week, show a concept device shaped like a standard pair of eyeglasses, but with camera and display hardware built in.

Much like Snapchat’s Spectacles, this theoretical Essential device would be used to capture eye-level photo and video with a built-in camera. However it would go further, more in the vein of Google’s ill-fated Glass headset, by adding digital information and images to real life scenes with some type of augmented reality tech. The filing describes the device working with prescription lenses, photo sensitive lenses, and standard sunglass lenses. There is also talk of a “dual-mode display,” which would present visual overlays and use an inward facing camera to perform eye tracking.

Photo: Patently Apple

The patent also describes AR use cases like real-time price matching of products in a store. “Based on the environment that the user sees, and based on the direction of the user's gaze, the processor can display an image to augment the environment around the user,” the filing reads. “For example, if the user is looking at a barcode of an item, the processor can display cheaper purchasing options of the same item."

This is of course not a real product, at least not yet. Though from what we’ve seen from Essential, which starts shipping its new Essential Phone later this month or early July, it’s clear the company has serious hardware ambitions to take on the biggest players in the tech industry. We don’t know quite yet whether the Essential Phone can keep pace with the iPhone or its fellow top-tier Android competitors, nor do we know if the company’s Essential Home will be a viable smart speaker compared with offerings from Google and Amazon. But if Essential can arrive early to the smart glasses market, it could just gain an early edge in a sector not yet dominated by a big Silicon Valley player.