Anker’s New Soundcore Frames Widens Smart Glasses Fashion With Switchable Eyewear
Anker debuted the Soundcore Frames line of swappable style smart glasses this week. The 10 frame varieties available are all interchangeable, with the built-in voice assistant and surround sound traveling within the removable side pieces fitting over the ears.
The Soundcore Frames are what Anker calls “audio glasses,” part of the audio-only family of smart glasses. The device has four speakers and two microphones embedded in the side pieces. The speakers are positioned to simulate surround sound, and the microphones can block out some ambient noise for better-sounding phone calls when connected to a smartphone by Bluetooth. The smart glasses also offer a privacy mode for calls limiting how much can be heard by people nearby and can run for five and a half hours on a full charge, according to Anker.
Notably, the smart glasses come with their own local voice assistant to manage the device, removing the need for a smartphone’s voice assistant to handle media playback and other commands. There are also touch-sensitive places near the temples that can be used for silently operating the glasses. Both the voice and touch controls can be customized using Anker’s associated mobile app. Wearers can use more than one word or phrase to activate the voice AI and pick what different types of touch make the glasses do. The physical customization of the smart glasses is central to Anker’s pitch for the device, however. The 10 initial styles offer multiple shapes and lens options depending on if the wearer wants sunglasses, blue light filters, or prescription glasses.
“Up till now the emerging audio eyewear space has been pretty dull with only limited design choices,” Anker Innovations CEO Steven Yang said in a statement. “With our new Soundcore Frames we hope to reset things, bringing a more stylish audio listening experience to the market.”
Hearing the Future
Audio-only smart glasses helped resurrect the concept after the failure of Google Glass as a consumer product. An abbreviated list of Anker’s competitors includes Razer’s Anzu smart glasses, Huawei’s Eyewear II, the Amazon Echo Frames, and the new Ray-Ban Stories built with Facebook. Razer’s smart glasses can switch out prescription, clear, or sunglasses lenses, but the rest of the eyewear stays the same. Smart glasses with holographic displays and other visuals appear to be on the rise too. Xiaomi’s feature-packed smart glasses came out last month, and Google may make another foray in the field after acquiring North, the makers of Focals by North smart glasses last year.
At $200, the Soundcore Frames match Razer’s price and are cheaper than the $250 Echo Frames or $300 Ray-Ban Stories. That said, buying additional frames at $50 each would quickly shift Anker’s place on the scale, if not as much as purchasing Echo Frames in regular, polarized, mirrored, and blue light filter varieties. If modular fashion draws consumers to wearable tech, Anker may be setting the trend for future smart glasses.