It has not been more than a year since Google Glass was first sold commercially to the public, and, despite an overall tepid reaction towards Google Glass, Luxottica is now forging ahead with yet another attempt at smart glasses.
This time, the eyewear juggernaut has teamed up with semiconductor giant Intel to produce smart eyewear. Essentially, Intel will provide engineering know-how, so that Luxottica can focus on industrial design, thereby keeping costs down and shortening the time to market.
Breaking into high-growth markets
Although smart glasses face strong resentment and privacy concerns, they represent a mere slice of the larger smart wearables pie. Smart wearables is a category that offers strong growth projections on the whole, and nearly every major consumer electronics company, such as Acer, Apple, Blackberry, LG, Samsung and Sony, are working on a smart wearable product.
Similarly, Intel, which produces the chips that run most personal computers and data servers, intends to break out of traditional PCs to explore new growth drivers. Being slow to catch on to fast-growing markets is costly, which Intel learned years ago when it delayed entry into the mobile market.
So why smart glasses?
Smart wearables encompass a whole host of things, from tablets and smartphones to smart watches and jewellery. So the question one asks is why smart glasses, when the product faces so much resistance among consumers?
Intel is, in fact, exploring many directions. Besides signing on with Luxottica on smart glasses, it recently unveiled MICA, its first luxury smart bracelet for women. The core competence of Intel lies in its chips, and, as a chip manufacturer, Intel desires to cater to as many user cases (products) as possible. To explore other new forms of smart wearables, a popular example being smart watches, entails facing tough competition from Apple as well as the need to ensure compatibility with smart phones like Samsung, LG and Sony.
Luxottica and Intel face mixed prospects
To date, smart eyewear faces many challenges centred on the following concerns: social pressure, privacy concerns, user experience, utility and added value. In a time when security and surveillance have encroached on people’s personal space, many do not welcome what they see as an additional imposition. There remains, however, promising uses for smart eyewear among enterprise users.
So long as Intel and Luxottica continue pursuing their core businesses – Intel selling chips to various user cases and Luxottica maintaining its iron grip on the spectacles industry – the pursuit of smart glasses will be but an ambitious project for both parties to improve their positions or even leapfrog others in technology terms, which ultimately benefits all.
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