smartglasses

A key feature of Vue glasses is the “open ear,” which uses bone conduction technology to transmit sounds waves from the skull to the cochlea, creating an earbud effect without the use of real earbuds. | Courtesy of Jason Gui

Vue smart glasses are the latest creation of 2013 Wharton and Engineering graduate Jason Gui. Just two years after the launch of Vigo — a headset that helps its users stay alert and awake — Gui and his startup team have now developed glasses that serve as activity trackers, wireless headphones and Bluetooth mics for phone calls.

Although Gui and the company's co-founder, Tiantian Zhang — a 2013 graduate of the Integrated Product Design master’s program at Penn — were originally inspired by Google Glass, Google’s early attempt at creating a “smart” eyepiece, they said they were not satisfied with the way the the device appeared “big and bulky.”

“The idea behind [Vue] was ‘how do we build glasses for people that actually wear glasses, instead of for tech-y people who don’t mind looking like a dork?’” Gui said.

In order to shrink the bulkiness of the glasses, Gui and his team worked on storing all of the technology into the side frames. Their aim was to create a normal-looking pair of glasses that did not garner unwanted attention, they said.

“As someone who wears glasses every day, the design of the glasses was crucial,” Zhang said. “With Vue, we’ve designed glasses that are stylish and discreet. That’s important because it allows us to appeal to a wider audience than just early tech adopters.”

One of the key features of Vue glasses is the use of bone conduction technology, which transmits audio via vibrations through the skull, not eardrums. Tiny pads placed on the inside of the glass frames vibrates the skull, which in turn vibrates the cochlea. Users are essentially listening not through their ears but through vibrations in their heads.

“The biggest benefit of this is the ‘open ear’ idea,” Gui said. “When you have ear buds that are plugged into your ears, you can’t really hear what’s going on around you, which is actually pretty dangerous for a pedestrian walking on the road or inconvenient when you’re in the office and someone’s talking to you.”

“With this, you can listen to audio with your ears remaining unplugged, so you can hear what’s going on around you. It sounds like music is coming through your head, which is a pretty unique experience,” he said.

Besides bone conduction audio, Vue glasses are equipped with technology that tracks various activities during the day, such as the number of steps taken, miles walked and calories burned. The eyepiece also reminds users to stand up and stretch after hours of sitting.

Furthermore, the glasses notify users of incoming calls, texts and emails. If lost or stolen, users can track their glasses using the "Find My Glasses" feature.

Vue glasses were launched on Kickstarter three weeks ago, and are well over their initial goal of raising $50,000. With 23 days left in the campaign, Gui’s team have raised nearly $850,000 and Gui predicts that they will soon reach $1,000,000.

“These glasses seem to be popular — we raised more on day one of the campaign for Vue than we did for the whole campaign of Vigo,” Gui said.

The glasses are planned to come out in July of next year.

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