Huawei Debuts New Voice-Enabled Gentle Monster Eyewear II Smart Glasses
Huawei revealed its new smart glasses this week at a launch event for the Huawei Mate 40 smartphone. Continuing the partnership with South Korean fashion label Gentle Monster, the new Eyewear II smart glasses offer an updated and improved version of the device the company rolled out last year.
Gentle Monster Vision
The Eyewear II comes in a couple of frame styles designed by Gentle Monster, with tinted sunglasses or clear lenses depending on the customer’s choice. It is very difficult to tell just by looking at the wearer that they are not wearing regular glasses. The frames are thinner, and Huawei says they are lighter than the previous version thanks to improvements in design and miniaturization of Huawei’s technology. Despite occupying less space, the new version of the smart glasses has a diaphragm twice the size of the first generation, improving the sound quality while also reducing how much people not wearing the glasses can hear due to semi-open speakers on either side of the lens that focus sound to the ears of the person wearing them. The volume adjusts automatically based on the ambient sound, so the speakers are audible to the wearer but not others around them.
The Eyewear II falls into the audio-only category of smart glasses, with no visual or augmented reality element. The smart aspect of the glasses comes from connecting them to a smartphone. Like the previous version, the new smart glasses can connect to both iOS and Android devices. The glasses are controlled by gestures, so pinching the left frame opens the Bluetooth for pairing to your phone. Once paired, a double tap on the left side of the frame will awaken the voice assistant native to the smartphone, and the in-built microphone will let the wearer converse with the AI and have it perform any task it would normally do by voice command. Music and other audio content can play through the speakers for up to five hours without a recharge, and you can check the battery life on your phone. Swipes on either side of the glasses changing the track and volume if you don’t want to use voice commands. The glasses share another similarity with wireless earbuds in that the audio will pause when you take the glasses off and resume when worn again.
“Based on their core design philosophy of the seamless fusion of technology with fashion, Huawei’s second-generation smart glasses continue to focus on audio and smart innovation, with a more avant-garde yet comfortable design and a greater wealth of outstanding smart functions to experience,” Huawei said in announcing the glasses. “With it, Huawei is forging a unique and iconic smart wear trend for sophisticated fashion-conscious consumers.”
The glasses cost about $400, but aren’t €299, about $354, but are only available in parts of Europe and Asia for now. That may change, but Huawei faces ongoing suspicion from U.S. regulators that may slow or prevent sales of the smart glasses in the U.S. The Eyewear II faces an increasingly crowded market in the U.S. and globally, however. New variations on smart glasses are appearing at a steady clip. There’s a demand for audio-only smart glasses comparable to Huawei’s new creation. Wearable tech startup Vue raised $2.2 million on Kickstarter in 2016 for high-end smart glasses that started shipping last year, followed by the Vue Lite model this past August. Vue’s creations compete with the Bose Frames as purely audio smart glasses, as does Amazon’s Echo Frames smart glasses, which are built as a way to more seamlessly connect with its Alexa voice assistant with few smartphones providing it as the native voice assistant.
Other tech giants are more interested in combining audio with visual elements. Though the crash-and-burn of Google Glass sent Google back to the drawing board, the company is clearly prepping a comeback after acquiring 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, which the company integrated into its own product, and which Google will doubtless find useful. Matching the fashion brand partnership with Gentle Monster, meanwhile, Facebook is supposedly working with Ray-Ban on smart glasses with AR, and details about Apple’s plans for smart glasses with displays in the lenses leaked earlier this year.