Smartglasses: Bringing Style Back into Focus

Feature image belongs to Antonio Zugaldia

By Vincent Tan

If Google Glass rings a bell, it’s probably for the wrong reasons: a slightly clunky look and the hilarious satire it spawned. In fact, the prototype also struggled with complaints about its low-res images, its initial lack of prescription lenses and the large bite it took out of your wallet: US$1,500 (S$2,014) to be exact.

Now a new breed of rival smart glasses looks set to do better. Designed as fashion you would actually wear, they come with a range of useful functions like health monitoring, smartphone features, music, and more.


Shima by LaForge projects your smartphone around your field of vision a la Mission Impossible. Available in a variety of designs, this wearable tech’s streamlined look uses a near invisible chip embedded in one lens. The frames are custom-made, so they fit your face and your prescription, all at the price of US$590 (S$791).

Its Heads Up Display (HUD) is non-intrusive, framing your everyday vision with notifications, music controls, and (for the health-conscious) jogging speed. Drivers benefit too: moving faster than 17mph auto-launches driving mode which calls up a virtual map with directions. Instant messaging with friends can be done simply by speaking, and LaForge’s newest model is fitted with a camera for snapping photos or recording 30 second videos.

Small movements along the spectacle frame control most of its features, such as switching widgets, scrolling, changing volume, and others. With 18 hours of battery life, Shima recharges in just 30 minutes.

LaForge may have come a long way, but they aren’t stopping here. They also hope to integrate voice control features with Siri and Google Now into later versions of their software.


Rather than looking out, JINS MEME lets you look in. Mega Japanese eyewear brand JINS looks ready to make a big splash with glasses that can tell you various aspects of your health and fitness with three companion apps: ‘Office’ for concentration, ‘Zen’ for meditation and ‘Walk’ for posture.

Sensors around the nose bridge monitor the wearer’s concentration, tiredness, and stress via the number of blinks and eye movements, also potentially creating an alert system for drivers dozing at the wheel.

From its central position around your eyes, accelerometers and gyroscopes on the glasses track body motion better than fitness watches can, so the MEME can inform you of poor body posture as you exercise, allowing for more efficient training.

This personal trainer currently goes for 39,000 yen (S$500) but sadly is not available outside Japan…yet.


These sunglasses actually send music through your skull. Zungle Panther’s built-in bone-conducting speakers transmit music via vibrations in the bone, allowing users to experience clear sound without emitting any noise pollution. This Kickstarter project was so cool, it hit its target twice over.

Zungle frames and lenses also give a nod to fashion, coming in a variety of colours that can be swapped and interchanged. Once linked to your smartphone via Bluetooth, a dial on the Zungle can be tapped to play music, and spun to fast-forward or rewind, while a built-in microphone lets you make or take calls. It is also cheaper than regular decent headphones, does not block your ears so you can cross the street more safely, and can still be preordered on Kickstarter with a pledge of US$109 (S$146) or more. (Deliveries are in November.)

A slight drawback is the short battery life which only offers four hours of music for every hour of charging.

Still, all three smart glasses have cleared the fashion hurdle that felled the Google giant. If there are more innovations like these, we might see a revolution in eyewear that’s on par with the rise of the smartphone.