Will smartglasses be common by 2018?

(Syda Productions/shutterstock.com)

(Syda Productions/shutterstock.com)

Relaxnews

, Last Updated: 1:42 AM ET

As Google opens up its Google Glass Explorer program to potentially all U.S. residents, another new report claims that by 2018 consumers will be buying 10 million pairs of smartglasses a year.

That's a huge jump considering that fewer than 90,000 pairs are expected to ship in total in 2013, but Juniper Research, the company behind the report, believes that as soon as the devices can be demonstrated to improve consumers' lives and go beyond existing smartphone functionality, they will become mainstream tech objects of desire.

Report author Nitin Bhas said: "These devices would need to incorporate intuitive and user-friendly functionalities and capture the imagination of the general public making the technology seamless within their daily routine."

To put the figures into some sort of perspective, Apple currently sells roughly 10 million desktop and notebook PCs a year, and while that makes the company a niche player by Lenovo's and HP's standards, there's a near certainty that every time you pass a coffee shop window anywhere in the world, there will be someone in there using a Mac laptop. Imagine the same scenario but with someone wearing something akin to Google Glass.

However, so far, none of the early entries into the smartglasses field -- Google Glass included -- offer any consumer functionality significantly different from what is already available on a mid-range smartphone and all need to be tethered wirelessly to a handset in order to work.

The other key to smartglasses' future success will be affordability. The price of headsets will need to come down significantly before the average consumer will consider taking the plunge and giving wearable technology a try.

Indeed, Juniper's rather optimistic forecast is based partly on the price of such gadgets falling over the next five years in order to stimulate interest and increase accessibility. It also notes that there is still much disagreement within the industry as to whether headsets or smartwatches will be more popular or socially acceptable forms of wearable technology with consumers.

In a bid to address this second issue, Google this week launched a waiting list so that potentially any U.S. resident can put their name down to try out Google Glass. Until now, 'Glass Explorers' -- those people beta testing the device and its capabilities ahead of a full public launch -- were either competition winners or had been invited on to the program, either by Google directly or via recommendations from existing Google Glass users.

However, anyone who fancies trying out the gadget will still have to stump up $1500 for the privilege of being a tester, which, staying with the Apple analogy, is the equivalent cost of its top-of-the-range 15-inch MacBook Pro Notebook with Retina display. But while that's a significant investment especially for a product very much in its developmental stage, there is expected to be a small stampede of tech-savvy consumers signing up on the off chance their application is accepted.

Google's announcement has been met with criticism beyond North America. Due to what the company calls regulatory issues, Google is still unable to extend the testing program to consumers or developers in Europe or Asia, a concern for a product that will no doubt be launched globally when it's finally ready.

Google Glass was first announced in 2012 and is currently in its second iteration. The new model does away with the bone conducting speaker in favor of earbuds and the frame has been changed to make wearing the device more comfortable.

From January, users will also be able to buy clip-in prescription lenses for the headset so that they don't have to wear it over their glasses. By the start of 2014, Google Glass will also be compatible with Google Music All Access, meaning that wearers will be able to use the device for music playback, a crucial piece of functionality especially on a device that Google hopes will eventually replace the smartphone.


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