Microsoft Still Working on Google Glass Competitor

The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft is still working on its own answer to Google Glass. Unnamed sources told the paper that the company is currently testing prototypes, and has asked several Asian component makers to supply cameras and other key components. The source said the device may never reach the market, but we know better than that.

"[Microsoft is] determined to take the lead in hardware manufacturing to make sure the company won't miss out on the opportunities in the wearable gadget market," the person told the paper.

We've heard this song and dance before. Back in April, analyst Brian White informed investors that Microsoft is expected to produce a working Google Glass alternative sometime in 2014. Unfortunately, he didn't provide any insider specifics, but we had hoped to see something appear during BUILD 2013 or E3 2013. That didn't happen, and there's a good chance the company will wait and see what the final Google Glass product will provide, and watch the resulting reaction by privacy advocates, before releasing its own solution.

"It appears to us that Google has made significant breakthroughs around software applications as it relates to this new product," he told investors. "As such, we believe this initiative will kick off a major push into the field of wearable electronics and therefore will be closely scrutinized."

Canalys analyst Daniel Matte told the paper that technology companies like Microsoft can't really afford to play the wait and see game in a rapidly growing wearables market. Both Samsung and Sony have already produced smartwatches, and Google, Apple and Microsoft are reportedly working on their own solutions. But whether the device is worn on the wrist or on the face, the tech wear industry will face challenges regarding strict power constraints limiting the number of sensors that can be added.

Back in August, Microsoft filed a patent describing a series of head-mounted display devices that may include OLED displays, voice interaction, eye-tracking, facial recognition technology, three accelerometers, and three gyroscopes to track the head movement of the wearer. It also mentions a possible design using transparent or partially transparent displays that sit on the user's face in the form of glasses.

According to the patent, outward-facing sensors would detect the wearer's environment, track the user's gestures, and locate other users in the same space. The patent has numerous mentions of a "time-of-flight depth camera" system similar to what's offered in Kinect 2.0. This may be used to scan the space to see what games are the most appropriate.

What made this patent interesting was that the wearer can use the specs outside, indicating that the wearable tech may be compatible with tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices, in addition to Xbox One and Windows 8. There's even a good chance the HMD, or Google Glass competitor, will run on a Windows Phone or RT platform.

Currently, Google is taking its Glass specs on a road trip across America to get possible customers more acquainted with the controversial tech. The specs runs at a hefty $1500 for the Explorer Edition, and so far the commercial version, which will be built in the United States, won't arrive until Summer 2014. So far an actual release date has not been set.

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  • sean1357
    I like competition that is good for consumers...Eye tracking is cool... eMagin is making OLED display 6 or 7 years ago... Put that headset on and watch porn movies, nobody knows about it...
  • Darkerson
    You know, instead of reacting and trying to make a knock off to something someone else made, I wish they would actually innovate and come up with something original of their own. You would think they would have learned by now, what with their graveyard full of "me too" products that went no where and were ultimately discontinued...
  • JD88
    11774984 said:
    You know, instead of reacting and trying to make a knock off to something someone else made, I wish they would actually innovate and come up with something original of their own. You would think they would have learned by now, what with their graveyard full of "me too" products that went no where and were ultimately discontinued...

    This. Reaction is at best good enough to maintain the status quo. Innovation is required to thrive. Sometimes blind arrogance leads to stagnation though.
    Sorry I can't get interested in this. Call me when there's an app that fixes bad vision permanently.
  • damianrobertjones
    I heard from, you know, EVERY OTHER TECH SITE on the net that the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 were released the other day... . Any chance of an actual article? A brief mention? Anything?
  • back_by_demand
    Fat chance of a Surface mention, too many haters
  • ubercake
    I would like something that resembles Boba Fett's helmet. It could feed me VR smells, sights, tastes and sounds as an overlay to real life senses! I could get previews of the taste of menu items for nearby restaurants and see what I look like wearing fashions from the nearest clothing stores. It's all about making people want to consume more, so why not look like the Star Wars Universe's most bad-ass assassin while feeding the corporate machine?
  • stevejnb
    11776019 said:
    Fat chance of a Surface mention, too many haters

    Maybe with the Surface RT but, frankly, I've seen *tons* of positivity towards the Surface Pro line of products. The only gripe I continually see is price, but it's usually in the context of "that's a sweet unit - I wish I could afford it!" rather than "psh, overpriced garbage."

    Also, in the case of Tom's, they covered the heck out of the Surface announcement events, so I suspect this is more of an oversight on their part, rather than a bias against the Surface line. You want to see a site that is biased against MS releases? Read the tech section of NBC. Every article I see mentioning Nokia phones or Windows tablets is "well, it has nice hardware, but the whole Windows mobile platforms are kinda lame" type mentality... Then they post articles talking about iPads as if they're the clearly most functional tablets on the market.

    As for this idea of innovation equating with success, and reactionary products either leading to the product graveyard or at best maintaining a status quo, I can think of more than a few product lines that prove this at best a contextual truth.

    Windows - reactionary to other GUI's coming into existence, and a smashing success.

    XBOX line - reactionary to existing products and threat of set-top boxes to MS's OS's, and a notable success.

    Android - even if it was in development before iOS was, it actually hit phones almost a year after, and quickly became a "me too!" operating system, largely emulating iOS's interface norms and app-store model. It became its own thing, but you'd be hard pressed to claim Google's initial push with Android as anything more than reactionary to the release of the iPhone - and now Android controls 80% of that market.

    Samsung phones - almost the definition of a "me too" phone company, just trying to copy and gobble up what Apple carved out, and again, a smashing success.

    Apple - all of their recent major releases were things they didn't innovate, but rather took existing ideas/products and modified them with a mind for selling points, and made *smashing* successes out of them.

    I think a headset by MS has a snowball's chance in hell of being the market leader, but this whole stance of "innovation leads to success, reactionary products at best maintain the status quo" is utter poppycock. Plenty of factors have lead to reactionary products taking over the market, and more than a few truly innovative products fall flat on their faces or get slowly outpaced by their reactionary competitors.
  • ubercake
    I agree with most of what stevejnb said. Just about everyone I know who owns a Surface loves the thing.

    Also, the innovators often get screwed. This is why marketing is so important. The message and the impression people have of something is often more important than the thing itself.
  • hiruu
    I still don't understand wtf Google Glass is...