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January 9, 2018

Putting Alexa inside a pair of smartglasses makes a lot of sense

by John_A

Vuzix has been a regular at CES for years, crafting head-mounted displays and smartglasses often aimed at businesses — or very enthused wearable fans. The Vuzix Blade, its latest pair of augmented reality spectacles tries to balance that B2B / consumer sales pitch by adding a voice assistant. Amazon Alexa’s newest home is a pair of smartglasses.

Firstly, the crush of a CES evening show is never the best place to test out a voice assistant: you need a strong connection to make her receptive to your requests. So, pretty much all my Alexa queries fell on deaf robot ears.

Fortunately, the Blade worked in every other way — and most of us know how Alexa works by now, so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. A Vuzix spokesmen reiterated that the smartglasses work with every Alexa skill open to developers. If you can do it with a smart speaker, then you can do it with these.

The Blade has one advantage over your audio-only Echo speaker, however. In typical Vuzix fashion, there’s a floating screen running Android, offering visual assistance to your voice commands. Ask for directions, and the Blade smartglasses will show you the way. This is where the business uses shine too: with an AR app, a fictional engineer look at a broken circuit board, get the glasses to identify what’s wrong, and order the parts immediately through Amazon.

Here at CES, I was wearing prototype hardware on sale to developers. It’s a cool $1,800 for these, and the hardware is a little uncomfortable on the nose after a few minutes. Fortunately, the final version is expected to cost a nudge over half of that: $1,000.

Yes, of course an Echo Dot is still way, way cheaper, but Vuzix’s Blade demonstrates that Amazon Alexa has the potential to turn into something far more than a tech curio that gathers dust somewhere in your living room.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.

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