Sunglasses are pretty straightforward. We all recognize them when we see them. But can they be more? Certainly. You can buy a pair with built-in Bluetooth speakers, enabling you to listen to music from your phone as you are walking down the street or sitting in a café. And with the pace at which technology is advancing, it is quite likely we will build all sorts of technology into the sunglasses of the future.
That said, at what point do sunglasses stop being sunglasses? At what point do they become all-encompassing eyewear that both protects against UV rays and offers a full array of AR and VR tools? We might not have to wait too long to answer that question. Some of the products featured at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) give us a good idea of where all of this is going.
A TV on Your Face
The point of this post is not to talk exclusively about CES products. However, one particular product does illustrate the point quite perfectly. That product is the TCL Wearable Display. It looks like a pair of high-tech sunglasses at first glance. However, it is anything but. Just read the name again – this time more closely.
You are not buying a pair of designer sunglasses here. Rather, you are purchasing a device that can function as a pair of sunglasses when you need it to. But it can also function as the equivalent of a giant, 100-inch HD television screen.
TCL’s product is not yet ready for mass distribution, but the company is getting ever closer. Their latest iteration is a wearable display that plugs into a phone or tablet computer. In fact, the secondary device is the one that provides the power. It also provides the content.
Imagine sitting back and watching your favorite film by pairing your smartphone with the Wearable Display. No one else has to see or hear it. You can watch in the airport, at the local coffee shop, or even in the office break room while on lunch.
Eye Protection Is Secondary
It’s clear that the TCL Wearable Display is more about the display itself and less about eye protection. It’s no stretch to say that eye protection is secondary here. A person wanting to purchase a basic pair of designer sunglasses to wear on vacation isn’t likely to invest in something so complex. Perhaps that’s the dividing line.
Olympic Eyewear, a Salt Lake City company that designs and distributes more than two dozen brands, explains that the primary role of a pair of sunglasses is protecting the eyes against UV rays and direct sunlight. Strip away everything else, and eye protection is the name of the game. Moreover, the price has little to do with it.
Eye protection is achieved through lens design. In terms of UV protection, designers add a transparent layer to the lenses to filter out UV rays. Protection against direct sunlight is achieved through tinting.
UV protection and tenting are industry standard. Thus, you are not necessarily getting more protection by spending $500 on a pair of designer sunglasses. A pair costing less than $100 likely offers the exact same protection. If you want to spend the extra on a favorite label or additional features, that’s fine. But breaking the bank isn’t required to keep your eyes and safe.
A Technology Gadget
There may come a time when a wearable display enhances life enough to make it worthwhile. But for now, TCL’s device is little more than an electronic gadget for technology enthusiasts. They aren’t really sunglasses, nor are they intended to be.