For the past six years, low-key Osterhout Design Group has been building heavy duty smart glasses for the military. But after seeing the kind attention heaped onto gadgets like Google Glass, the small San Francisco-based company is looking towards the consumer market and thinks it has something better to offer the world.
For less than $1,000, ODG plans on releasing a more consumer-friendly version of its glasses in 2015. The glasses can do everything its military-grade specs can do—display high-definition video, record video, lay visuals over the real world—but will be 30 percent smaller and 20 percent lighter, and they’ll look a little less awkward. The most recent version of ODG’s smart glasses, released last year, are bulkier and more rugged to fit with military equipment specification, and cost around $5,000 a piece.
ODG’s augmented reality glasses come packed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a global navigation satellite system; and sensors for figuring out where you’re looking. The operating system ODG uses is a modified version of Android to make sure, for example, an Android update button doesn’t pop up while you’re driving down a freeway with the glasses on. Battery life is variable depending on how they’re being used but can range from an hour or two to nearly all day on a single charge.
The glasses can do pretty much anything a tablet can do. Watching a movie on the glasses is something akin to watching a high-def movie on a 65-inch TV from across the room. The glasses also track your head movement, so you can be placed into a 3D picture or video feed like you would with a pair of virtual reality goggles. When I tried out a pair of ODG’s glasses in its South of Market office, the virtual reality felt less disorienting than the Oculus Rift, which detached me too much from my surroundings–you can still see your surroundings on ODG’s glasses.