Frictionless augmentation is getting closer to becoming reality

Buried among the vocal criticism and glut of vapourware reported from CES, the world's biggest consumer electronics show, held in Las Vegas earlier this month, a few stories emerged where augmentation in several forms seemed to be inching closer to becoming more useful and, well, 'real'.

Heads-up display eyewear

When Google launched Project Glass, its HUD glasses represented a significant foray into wearable tech. While the project is clearly more than just a set of breathless concept videos, however, little has been given away in terms of what to expect. Indeed, the glasses won't be available to developers until later this year (at a hefty $1500) and no one knows what the price will be once they are available to the public.

So there was some delight when Vuzix unveiled its 'Smart Glasses' (pictured) at CES: a lightweight display that fits over one eye and connects to the user's smartphone, 'offering a wearable visual connection to the Cloud'. The bonus of this product is that, presumably, it will let the user watch where they are walking with the other eye.

While it's not stealing Google Glass's thunder wholesale, Vuzix is - theoretically at least - making this kind of augmentation a reality a lot sooner than anyone expected.

Bone-conduction headphones

In another corner of CES, Panasonic showed off headphones that vibrate sound by being placed against the skull, rather than inside the ear. The advantage of this is that the wearer can hear ambient noises: perfect when walking to work or out for a run, for example.

It's not the first of its kind (check out AfterShokz - see box, right), but is wireless and drip-proof. The only issue is whether the sound quality will turn out to be better than earlier models.

So what do these tech hardware developments mean for marketers?

Utility and simplicity always win

Wearing any kind of headset may not be everyone's cup of tea, but when something finally starts to become useful and simple to operate, that's when it takes off (remember the first-generation mobiles we all laughed at, before buying the less clunky second-generation versions?)

The barrier to overcome here is a fear of augmentation equalling distraction. The hardware unveiled at CES starts to show how it could become frictionless.

The mobile market changes. Again.

What happens when 'mobile' doesn't mean a smartphone in your hand or a tablet in your lap? 'Mobile first' is already moving from a design principle to core marketing strategy. What are the possibilities for brands when reality is augmented seamlessly at eye-level?

Mel Exon is co-founder of BBH Labs. Follow her on Twitter: @melex


Vuzix Smart Glasses

Available from this summer (Android-only), these wirelessly display text, video, email, mapping, audio - in other words, all we have come to expect from a smartphone, right in front of one eye.

Google Glass

Announced last year and currently in prototype development, these smart glasses provide a see-through HUD (heads-up display). It's not clear whether Glass will make your smartphone obsolete or simply augment it, like Vuzix. Watch videos of the womenswear designer Diane von Furstenberg and a team of skydivers trialling a prototype here:

Panasonic bone-conduction headphones

Also showcased at CES but not due to launch until autumn. Read a review here:

AfterShokz bone-conduction headphones

Cheaper and earlier to market than Panasonic's offering, AfterShokz will also produce a wireless version, which will be available to order in the US within the next month or so. Read more on them here:


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer