Vuzix M100: Born on the Battlefield, Now Coming to the Public
Vuzix (VUZI:QB), the makers of the Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses, has been in business and in the wearable technology arena since 1997, which, given how young this industry is, means that it is one of the dominant makers of smart glasses today. Based in Rochester, New York, Vuzix started out creating computerized optical devices for the United States Department of Defense. According to founder and CEO Paul Travers, Vuzix later sold its Defense division just over a year ago (2012), after developing a well-rounded portfolio of optical technology for the Department.
With success in the battlefield Vuzix has decided to go mainstream (like Hummer and Jeep) and develop optics for the public. The M100 glasses are the first consumer product (and first available smart glasses) to be released to civilians from the former military manufacturer. With 48 patents and patents pending, including the new M100 Smart Glasses, Vuzix has recently won numerous innovation awards for its products, including over a dozen Consumer Electronics awards and several wireless technology awards. It seems the years of developing smart eyewear for the Defense department has had a positive effect on the young company. This success has helped Vuzix to expand its product line and increase its international presence, now with offices based in Rochester N.Y (headquarters), as well as in Oxford, England and Tokyo, Japan.
“The First Commercially Available HUD”
According to a press release by the World Industrial Reporter, “The Vuzix M100 smart glasses are the world’s first commercially available, hands free display and wearable computer with cloud communications”. The HUD (Heads-up Display) actual unit can be mounted “over head” with a headphones like headband or it can be mounted to a pair of safety glasses, depending on which style better suits the user. In its current iteration, they aren’t the most stylish heads-up displays, but with a focus on price and function, we can overlook the styling. Vuzix’s newest advancement is the M100 Smart Glasses, marketed and distributed by Six-15 technologies as of January 2014.
The M100 Smart Glasses can be used alone or linked to a phone or a computer via Bluetooth 4.0. The M100 are all-resident, which means they do their processing within the unit themselves without a continuous internet connection. This is perfect for when privacy is needed or no internet connection is available. The M100’s also come equipped with the industry standard Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0. The glasses run on the Android operating system, featuring a dual core processing system, HD camera, and lithium-ion battery, which lasts anywhere from 4 – 6 hours. They also come with an external battery that is 3800 mha, rechargeable and connects to the headset unit via an ultra thin USB mini-B cable.
Are the M100’s Already In Use? Yes, Where They’re Needed Most
Essentially, these glasses can do everything a smartphone can do and more, such as take pictures, record video, and surf the web. In addition to its smartphone-like capabilities, Vuzix is working with application developers to add information to what a user is currently seeing to create a truly “augmented reality”. Application of the augmented reality features have so far been introduced primarily to the enterprise market, especially in industries where workers already wear safety glasses or goggles, such as construction and warehousing. Vuzix has already targeted construction and warehousing industries with its M2000AR, a monocle developed just for such professionals. It’s thought that eventually this user-built augmented reality will be incorporated into mainstream consumer versions.
The M100 also sports some cool touch-free controls. With its gesture engine for example, a wave of the hand past the rear right side of the frames can turn the device on or off or make various selections within an application. The M100 can be voice controlled as well. For the everyday user, this hands-free feature could be especially useful in the winter time, when wearing gloves often prevents a touchscreen from working properly. Soldiers, doctors and first responders alike could find the hands-free feature a literal life-saver. The unit does also feature buttons, for those who prefer a more hands-on approach to their wearable technology.
As previously mentioned, the M100 Smart Glasses are ergonomically designed to be worn over a user’s eyeglasses or sunglasses. They can also be adjusted so that the display appears over either the left or right eye. Anyone who is a marksman knows that having the ability to select your dominant eye is an important feature of any specialized eyewear.
M100 At The Enterprise Level
Where Vuzix is spending a lot of marketing dollars and for good reason is the commercial application of the tech. Imagine large, spread out industries like logistics and warehousing and how they could benefit from having workers equipped with smart HUD’s that tracked their locations, gave them instructions, allowed them to communicate with each other, consult orders on the fly, the possibilities are endless.
Eyewear like the M100’s will bring a whole new level of efficiency at the enterprise level. Imagine a mechanic has a problem with an aircraft engine. Today, the flight would be delayed or cancelled and a specialist might have to be brought on site to help diagnose the mechanical malfunction. Cancelling a flight and flying in an expert would cost thousands of dollars. Now imagine that same mechanic has a pair of the M100 smartglasses. He could like up to the specialist anywhere in the world, communicating with the eye pieces microphone and providing the specialist a live video feed of what he’s seeing on the ground. The problem could be solved in minutes instead of days.
The Future of the Vuzix M100
Right now, the M100 glasses are a clear goggle design. Vuzix does have plans to roll out a sunglasses model of the M100 in the Fall of 2014. The company is also working on a prescription glasses version of the product, similar to what Google recently announced with its Google Glasses. According to the Rochester Business Journal, Vuzix has also partnered with German company xCon Partners GmbH to produce an even stronger and stylish product in the future to appeal to more fashion conscious consumers. Channelemea.com has also reported that xCon Partners GmbH will be a Value Added Reseller, a launch partner, and will create applications for the M100 Smart Glasses. So if you want to know what the future holds for Vuzix, it would make sense to follow xCon Partners closely.
It seems Vuzix has everything going for it; a strong military foundation, enterprise level applications, and reputable partners and developers with xCon. Time will tell if these strengths are enough to counter-balance the hegemon that is Google, but regardless, the future seems bright for Vuzix. See Tested speak with Vuzix’s CEO about the practical applications of the M100 and its Android computing potential. (Vuzix is also working on iOS interface as well according to Vuzix’s product spec page)