Sony Puts Its Smart Specs Up For Dev Pre-Order, For $840

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Sony has put a developer edition of its forthcoming smart glasses, branded as SmartEyeglass, up for pre-order today, starting with the U.K. and Germany. It’s also made the SDK available.

As well as developers, Sony is targeting this initial version of the specs at enterprises users — which makes sense, given that Google’s competing Glass product has garnered the most interest from businesses with niche workforce needs vs the general consumer. (Indeed, Google is having a major rethink about its Glass strategy.)

Starting out with a strong focus on industrial scenarios, Sony is suggesting potential applications within warehouses and workshops — with the specs offering hands-free, step-by-step instructions to factory workers and mechanics.

It does also list some more general consumer use-cases, such as watching sports games or for tourists viewing attractions. And, as Google did, has popped them on the dainty nose of a model to show them off in the above video, rather than opting to push the enterprise angle. Which is pretty silly (but seems to be tech marketing 101, for whatever reason). Either way, in their current dorky incarnation, these specs aren’t going to be appealing to any masses.

A consumer version of SmartEyeglass is not due until 2016, Sony added today — or at least dubbed that future launch its “ambition”. Depending on how well the dev version goes down. Presumably any consumer edition would have a reworked design, given that the current look can charitably be described as a chunkier version of the 3D glasses you get handed at the cinema — to wear solely in a darkened room.

Sony’s SmartEyeglass Developer Edition SED-E1 is being priced to undercut Glass at £520 (excluding taxes) in the U.K., or €670 in Germany. The U.S. price is $840, or it’s 100,000 Japanese yen — although it’s not available to pre-order in the latter two countries quite yet. But Sony says the glasses will be on sale in 10 countries by March.

It’s limiting developer access to the U.K., Germany, U.S. and Japan but says enterprise customers in France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands and Sweden will also be able to purchase the dev specs next month.

The main difference with Sony’s augmented reality goggles vs Glass is they superimpose monochrome information right over the user’s entire field of vision, rather than requiring the user to glance up at a dedicated screen in the top corner. The lenses in Sony’s specs are 3mm thick. The overall weight of the eyewear is 77g, which makes them a lot heftier than Glass. (And people griped about how uncomfortably heavy Glass is to wear.)

There’s also a separate controller with Sony’ specs, which can also be used as a speaker and microphone, and includes a battery and NFC. However a hands-free device that includes a wired controller seems rather cumbersome.

Like Glass, Sony’s specs do include a camera. The battery life of the device is around 150 minutes when this is not used, but drops to just 80 minutes when the camera is on. The specs also have an array of on-board sensors but are intended to link to a smartphone via Bluetooth to get GPS data for navigation use cases.

This week Sony also outed the companion app for the wearable, which acts as the hub to get to SmartEyeglass apps. Sony says a “selection” of those will be available for download when devs get their hands on the kit — including apps for accessing Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, RSS, calendar and voice control. It’s bid now is to get third party developers to further flesh out those wares to try to kick start a business around the fledgling face computer. (Albeit, that’s no cake-walk, as Google has discovered.)

In addition to SmartEyeglass, Sony is cooking up a clip-on attachment that adds a smart display module to a user’s existing eyewear — called SmartEyeglass Attach. The company released a demo video of that other forthcoming gizmo earlier this month. The ability to detach Attach may well turn out to be its most cherished feature.