Can Google Win the Smart Glasses Race?

Google_Glass_detailIs the world ready for wearable technology? Analysts at Juniper Research definitely think so. They estimated in a report released last Friday that the mobile wearable device market, which includes smart glasses, health and fitness wearables, and enterprise wearables, will grow from 15 million sales in 2013 to approximately 70 million in 2017.

Because the market was still nascent, Juniper analysts were quick to tack on a caveat to their prediction, warning that it was difficult to ascertain how quickly these types of devices will be adopted until commercial roll-outs were underway.

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Consumer offerings may still be on the distant horizon, but companies such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) have wearable technology projects in the works.

Thus far, Google is the closest to releasing a consumer product. According to the publication TechCrunch, the technology company’s research and development program Project Glass has been accelerating the development of a wearable computing device over the past year. “Complete with augmented reality and an integrated display, Google’s smart glasses have had many geeks on pins and needles, especially as ‘Explorer’ editions of the glasses have been expected to begin showing up early this year,” reported the publication.

Proving that the device was steps away from reaching consumers, Google sent out invitations on Tuesday that offered developers a chance to receive a pair of the $1,500 special edition glasses and participate in a two-day “hackathon” at the upcoming Google Mirror API in San Francisco or New York. This event will give developers the chance to begin building applications for the new device.

Several recent patent filings show that Apple and Microsoft have their sights on wearable devices as well. The U.S. Patent Office granted Apple a patent in 2009 for a “portable presentation device,” which, according to TechCrunch, was described as “a set of goggles that fit over the user’s eyes with display and perhaps sound producing apability, a faceplate that covers the front of the user’s face with display and perhaps sound producing capability, or any other headwear that has display and perhaps sound producing capability.”

Microsoft had a new patent application published with the patent office in late November for a set of glasses designed to display a system that can overlay information related to what the user was viewing, seemingly making the device more relevant for specific situations than Google’s glasses.

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