These High-Tech Eyeglasses Prove the Future is Here

0 | By Michael A. Robinson

Getting a truly modern outlook requires a little help.

Fortunately, you may soon be able to buy a unique pair of eyeglasses that do the job for you.

In early April, Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) unveiled a stylish pair of Web-connected spectacles that serve as a computer you wear on your face (or perhaps a smart phone for your eyes). It’s a great twist on what are known as “heads up” displays used by U.S. defense forces.

Most of the world has never seen anything quite like this before – except in sci-fi films.

This high-tech, mostly hands-free device could change the way you live your daily life. Put these eyeglasses on, and you have instant access your email. You can check the weather, get traffic updates, display maps and walking directions on the go, take photos, send texts, schedule meetings, listen to music, and make wireless video calls. You can operate the glasses’ functions by moving your head – nodding, for one – or clicking a small button.

This is the kind of breakthrough I have in mind when I say we are living in the Era of Radical Change. The next two decades will be like nothing we have seen before.

And it all started right here in the good ol’ USA.

Since the transistor was invented at Bell Labs in New Providence, New Jersey, back in 1947, the U.S. has vaulted ahead of the rest of the world at every major high-tech milestone.

In fact, as I like to remind readers, a simple law explains this steady stream of innovations we have enjoyed for decades. Named for a Silicon Valley genius, Moore’s Law states that computing power doubles about every two years.

Look at it this way…

In the 1960s, for the first time, people started using basic electronic calculators to perform addition and multiplication functions for them. Today – just 50 years later – they can sport eyeglasses that make video phone calls. (Now you’ll believe me when I say what’s next… I believe that in the very near future we will be able to upgrade our IQs with devices implanted inside our brains.)

Thus, Google’s Project Glass is so much more than just the latest cool gadget. It gives us a great insight into what the near future holds.

It’s going to be a thrilling ride.

If Google Doesn’t Deliver, Someone Else Will

According to early reports, Google could hit the market with these glasses by the end of 2012. But let me be blunt about one thing. Cynics have blasted Google over this project. They note that the Web giant has made no promise it will ever release the glasses.

That’s true. But it misses the big-picture view.

Even if Google shelves Project Glass, I predict that someone else will quickly step in to fill the void. And that option could turn out to be the better bet for investors.

After all, Google, with its $200 billion market cap, is such a big company that these glasses, as cool as they are, may not move the stock’s price all that much.

Either way, however, we win.

If Google’s glasses do hit the market in time for the holiday, then we can all go out and grab a pair. If not, then we can look for a small-cap leader that’s gearing up to bring them (or something similar) to market and then invest in that company.

In that case, what we hope for as tech investors is a firm like InvenSense Inc. (NYSE:INVN).This is a small-cap leader that makes motion sensors used in a wide range of electronics, including smart phones equipped with Google’s Android operating system. Even after a huge recent sell off, the stock has returned more than 35% so far this year. Compared with Google’s year-to-date loss of about 6%, InvenSense is on fire.

As it turns out, there are two small companies on my radar screen with products in the same space as Google’s glasses.

The first is privately held Recon Instruments, which sells ski goggles equipped with micro optics.

Right now, Recon targets downhill skiers who want a “heads-up” view of their skiing stats (though, according to the website, SCUBA divers, mountain bikers, surfers, and skydivers may be next). Skiers wearing Recon’s goggles can monitor data like speed, distance, altitude, and GPS-based location in a full-color display. The Mod Live premium pair also provides routes, text messages, and a camera. They come with Bluetooth and connect to social networks – all for $300.

That puts them in the same price range as the Google glasses, which the firm says would cost you between $250 and $500 a pair.

In the early days, only the die-hard tech fans will want to buy the Google glasses. But no doubt the price will fall from there, the way it has with computers and a host of other digital devices. Thus, by the end of this decade, I believe these kinds of wearable computers will become much more common.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s research unit wants to push the market forward, too. And that brings us to the second small company in this area. DARPA is backing a startup with micro optics built into contact lenses.

Innovega Inc. says it wants to enhance human vision by giving access to streams of digital info without distracting people from the real world around them. A tiny display is built into the lens, eliminating bulky optics and widening the field of view. In that regard, the Bellevue, Wash.-based company’s lenses fall into the same sector as Google’s glasses.

Here’s the thing. Right now, there basically is no broad market for these devices.

And yet I’ve just shown you at least three companies each offer their own view of where the demand for computer-driven optics will take us.

You know what that means…

In a few short years, you will be able to watch this step of the Era of Radical Change unfold right before your very own eyes.



P.S. I hope you’ll join me Friday, when I’m going to show you how a U.S. robotics startup is getting ready to enter the market in a big way…

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