Vue Lite Audio-Only Smart Glasses Ship
Wearable tech startup Vue has started selling $180 Vue Lite smart glasses that connect directly to a smartphone voice assistant, joining the increasingly competitive world of smart glasses. Vue, best-known for raising $2.2 million on Kickstarter in 2016 for high-end smart glasses that started only shipping just last year, clearly sees an opportunity for diversifying its smart glasses options, even within the audio-only side of the market.
The Vue Lite smart glasses keep their technological elements reasonably well hidden, appearing as standard prescription glasses or sunglasses, depending on the style chosen. Small speakers and a microphone with a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone’s voice assistant are woven into the frames. Vueimagines people using the frames as a replacement for earbuds in some cases, since it highlights the three and a half hours of music playback the batteries can sustain. According to one user that Voicebot spoke to, the audio is not very loud, which is good for using them without bothering other people but makes them not very appealing as media players. Like the $300 standard version of the Vue smart glasses, the Vue Lite appears very much a reaction to the Google Glass debacle that turned many people off to the technology, finding a way to make the style part of the function, instead of subservient to it. The cheaper version is, in some ways, an upgrade over the original, responding to feedback from the first users. The glasses are thinner and lighter and use a magnetic charging system instead of a special case to put the glasses in.
“We’ve also switched from bone conduction to directional audio. The reason for this is that it provides clearer, louder volume with a smaller footprint than a bone conduction transducer. Bone conduction also requires constant pressure to conduct sound, which also felt too tight to some backers. Directional speakers don’t require contact, and thus alleviate this issue,” Vue explained in a blog post. “Launching Vue Lite doesn’t mean we’re leaving other more advanced features behind. Rather, we see Vue Lite as its own line of simple smart glasses that focus on simplicity, lightness, and comfort. More advanced features, in the form of a Vue Pro, will be the next evolution of the original Vue Glasses and are already in process.”
The Vue Lite fits with the audio-only approach to smart glasses pursued by other companies. They cost $20 less than the Bose Frames, with some feature trade-offs and the appeal of the Bose brand, making it a real rival. Amazon’s audio-only Echo Frames smart glasses will cost a bit more at $250, although they are available for $180 as an introductory price currently. The Echo Frames may be preferable for those who want better integration with the Alexa voice assistant, but they are more limited in other ways, including the look of the actual frames.
The market may be filling up even more soon. Facebook, in partnership with Ray-Ban, is supposedly working on its own set of smart glasses, and details about Apple’s plans for smart glasses have leaked recently, including what appears to be gesture controls. Google may end up making a big play for the same space soon. The post-Google Glass idea for Google smart glasses became apparent when it acquired North, the makers of Focals by North smart glasses at the end of June. North’s portfolio included many patents acquired from Intel in 2018 for the canceled Vaunt smart glasses. North goes with Google’s overall focus on wearable tech, such as the $1.2 billion acquisition of Fitbit.