This startup raised $750,000 on Kickstarter to replace your Fitbit -- and your eyeglasses

People with glasses usually wear them every day. Most people would head home instead of going a day without their glasses.

You can’t say the same thing about modern wearables, like Fitbit or Apple Watch.

That’s why Tiantian Zhang, Aaron Rowley, and Jason Gui founded Vue, a startup building a pair of smartglasses that can track your activity and replace your headphones for calls, too.

They realised that the face is actually a really good place to put wearable technology — except if you already wear eyeglasses.

“We noticed smart glasses in the market were not designed for people who wear glasses every day,” Zhang said. “We wanted Vue to be stylish and functional” for people who already wear glasses, she said.

“We wanted to design something that most people would like to wear every day,” Rowley said.

Vue smart glasses use traditional lenses — not complicated smart glasses optics — and depending on what lenses are installed, they can be a pair of sunglasses, prescription eyeglasses, or even fashion glasses.

Not Google Glass

The result? Vue is less like Google Glass and more like a standard pair of glasses. There’s no screen in front of your eyes.

“These glasses are virtually indistinguishable from other glasses you would buy,” Rowley said. Think Warby Parker, not Hololens.

The technology is more subtle than a screen. Packed inside the Vue frames is quite a bit of technology — bone conduction pads that will allow you to pick up a phone call, a tiny LED light for notifications, a microphone, a battery, and an accelerometer for step tracking.

But those little bits of technology can pull off some pretty cool tricks when paired with the mobile app:

For example, the LED light at the corner of the wearer’s peripheral vision can be set to flash when receiving an email or text message.

Or, if you’d like to pick up a phone call, you can tap the touchscreen built into the glasses’ arm, and the hidden bone conduction speakers will allow you can talk on the phone without putting in a pair of earbuds. The bone conductors aren’t good enough to listen to music all day, but they do allow the Vue smart glasses to act like a handset, and pump turn-by-turn directions or your favourite AI assistant like Siri into your ears, for example.

The advantage to a more simple approach to smart glasses is that Vue can sport a pretty great battery life — 2-3 days of standby on a single charge, and 5 hours of conversation.

The glasses are also light, at 28 grams, which is less than a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers. They charge by sliding into a carrying case.

A smart glasses platform

According to Zhang and Rowley, the first Vue glasses, which will start to ship in July 2017, are only the beginning of this concept.

They see Vue as the start of a smart glasses platform. For now, they plan to open up the Vue API so that developers can create custom gestures and features. In the future, they say, the glasses could be a platform for new augmented reality optics, cameras, and other cool technologies that are currently missing from the glasses in the aim of simplicity.

But first the glasses have to be shipped to their first customers. The working prototypes I saw were 3D printed, but the Vue glasses that will go out to consumers next year will be made in volume at a factory.

Based on the company’s successful Kickstarter, which at the time of writing had raised over $780,000 on a goal of $50,000, it should have the funds it needs to do a full production run. After the first round of glasses gets in the hands of customers, then the company will look into future partnerships or the possibility of taking outside investment.

If you want a pair of Vue smart glasses, they cost $179 on Kickstarter and come with a pair of prescription lenses or sunglass lenses. They come in two styles, three colours, and a host of other personal options.

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