Smartglasses that look like sunglasses are the future, according to a Juniper report. Picture: AFP / Snap.
One in every 10 wearable gadgets will be worn on faces by 2021, and the revolution begins this year.
The prediction from Juniper Research is inspired by the return of smartglasses, pioneered by Google and now returned to prominence by Snapchat, which finally launched its Snap Spectacles for online orders this year.
But with smartwatches showing more modest growth, how will new manufacturers convince us to perch technology on our noses?
The new way to record snaps
Photo-sharing app Snapchat seems like an unlikely advocate for hi-tech glasses, as it recently admitted itself in documents relating to its initial public offering.
The company launched round-rimmed smart sunglasses inside vending machines placed randomly around the US last year, and briefly caused five-hour queues of eager buyers outside a Spectacles pop-up store in New York.
The appeal of the limited edition smartglasses could be put down to several factors.
First, they’re much cheaper than their Google Glass counterparts at only $US130 (A$171).
Second, they look like regular, if kitschy, sunglasses.
Third, they’re not as geeky and don’t try to do as much as Glass. Snap Spectacles are merely designed to take videos from your perspective, and share them on Snapchat.
Users can press a button on the left side of the Spectacles to capture a 10-second video clip, or hold down the button to capture 30 seconds of footage.
The wide-angle camera is hidden in the top right lens, near a microphone, and LED lights on the other side of the spectacles light up when you’re filming to alert those around you.
Snapchat admits launching smartglasses was a risky move, even though it describes itself as a “camera company”.
“We have limited manufacturing experience for our physical product Spectacles, and we do not have any internal manufacturing capabilities,” the company’s report said.
“Instead, we rely on one contract manufacturer to build Spectacles. Any errors or defects in that third-party technology could result in errors in our products that could seriously harm our business.”
Google has since stopped selling its Glass spectacles, and many wearers were mocked for wearing them in public.
But Juniper Research indicates Snap might be on the right path.
The firm predicts smartglasses will be the highest growing sector of wearable technology over the next five years, with revenues jumping from $US327 million this year to $US9 billion in 2021.
Smartglasses will also represent 11 per cent of all wearable technology by that time, the research finds, and many sets will “look more like large sunglasses” than something from the distant future.
The company also found “hearables,” or ear-based wearable technology, allowing Siri and Google Assistant to whisper pertinent information into your ear, would also find a market.
Meanwhile, smartwatches and fitness trackers will still play the largest role in wearable technology but a smaller role overall.
Canalys says smartwatches grew 12 per cent last year, and Apple took up the great majority of the market, in part due to its water-resistant design and activity tracking.
“The (first Apple Watch’s) lower entry price and Apple’s more focused fitness messaging made its Watch both more attainable and more relevant,” Canalys analyst Jason Low says.
But Foad Fadaghi, managing director of technology consultancy firm Telsyte, says smartwatches are getting a boost from an unusual source in Australia: payments made by tapping a wrist at the cash register.
“The repeat usage (of Apple Pay) is much higher on the Apple Watch than on a smartphone,” he says. “We have the making of a killer app for smartwatches.”