Making smartglasses that look like regular glasses

Vuzix M2000AR HMD. (Vuzix)

Vuzix M2000AR HMD. (Vuzix)


, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

Vuzix is developing a new optical technology that can turn standard spectacles into augmented reality headsets without making the wearer resemble a geek or an extra from an ill-fated sci-fi TV pilot.

The technology in question was developed in partnership with Nokia and within the next 12 months will have been sufficiently refined to disappear into a standard pair of reading glasses or sunglasses, yet project holographic images directly into the wearer's field of vision. But as well as a new level of augmented reality, the device will be able to work with most Android phones and run many standard Android apps.

At the moment smartglasses, such as Google Glass, use a prism that projects an image above the eye via a prism and this leads to a less-than-stylish look for the wearer. Vuzix's Waveguide optics technology takes a different approach to bouncing light, and therefore images, into the eye which has allowed the company to shrink down the elements needed so that they're small enough to fit inside the arm of standard glasses and to be aimed across the lenses from the inside (other products project the image in front of the glasses' lenses) yet offer a larger field of vision, directly in front of the wearer rather than up and to one side.

However, that's the future. For the present, Vuzix is debuting the technology in something it calls a Smart Monocle. Officially known as the M2000AR HMD, it is not aimed at the stylish or fashion-conscious -- after all, it comes with a built-in hard hat -- rather it is targeted at corporate customers who need hands-free access to data, files and applications while out and about, whether on a construction site or oil platform.

As such, as well as the hard hat, the device has been developed to withstand harsh weather conditions and to keep on working after knocks and bumps. It also offers a full HD camera, HDMI interface an integrated compass and head tracking.

At $5,999 US it's not for everyone but it is already the second consumer smartglasses headset the company has rolled out this year, following the launch of its direct Google Glass competitor, the Vuzix M100 earlier this month.

Vuzix will be demonstrating both devices at the International CES in Las Vegas in January.