Google Glass 2.0 Explorer Edition full review

Google Glass, Sony SmartEyeglass and Toshiba Glass display, design, features, apps, software, price and availability explored in our smartglasses comparison.

You've probably heard of Google Glass, Google's smartglasses that first made it into the wild in 2013. They've hit the headlines recently when Google announced that it is putting an end to its Google Glass Explorer Program and will stop selling the Explorer Edition of the smartglasses. But contrary to popular opinion, the company isn't quiting the smartglasses market completely. In fact, it's working on a new, improved version of its smartglasses that could launch as a consumer product from the get-go. See: Google Glass 2 release date rumours.

What you may not know is that Google isn't the only company investing time and money into smartglasses, with Sony and Toshiba among the other tech giants showing off their head-mounted wearable tech at CES 2015 in January. After trying out all three smartglasses, we've put together this comparison to give you an idea of the similarities and differences between them.

If you're looking for more detail on a particular model of smartglasses, follow the links below, or read on for our comparison.

Google Glass review
Toshiba Glass hands-on review
Sony SmartEyeglass and SmartEyeglass Attach hands-on review

Google Glass vs Sony SmartEyeglass vs Toshiba Glass: Display

One of the biggest differences between Google, Sony and Toshiba's smartglasses is the technology used to create the display, which enables a translucent image to appear in the top right corner of your vision.

We'll start with Google, which has a prism projector that floats in front of the wearer's right eye. It's quite thick, and means that the plastic casing sticks quite far out from your head, but it's the most clear and effective display out of the smartglasses in this round-up so far.

All of the smartglasses in this round-up are prototypes, but Google Glass definitely feels like it's the closest to being a final product. It's the only device out of those compared here that's has been available to buy, but Google explains that the Google Glass Explorer Edition 2.0, that sold for £1,000 aims to let "people from all walks of life play an active role in shaping Glass ahead of a wide consumer launch," which is really just the company's way of saying it's not completely finished yet but they wanted to sell it anyway.

Toshiba's offering, similarly named Toshiba Glass, is in early prototype form, only unveiled for the first time in October 2014. It uses different display technology that, while not yet as clear and crisp as Google Glass's, could be a better solution in the long term.

Instead of having a prism of glass protruding in front of your face, the Toshiba Glass manages to look more like an ordinary pair of glasses, with a projector attached to the right arm of the glasses, which is much more discreet (though you'll probably still get a few stares), particularly if you have long hair to hide it.

That projector beams the image directly onto the special reflective lens in front of your right eye. The size of the image you'll see is smaller than the one you see while using the Google Glass, but that's not always a bad thing. 

The Sony SmartEyeglass uses a different technology for the display again, but this time it's in just black and green rather than colour like the Google and Toshiba offerings. It's clever though, projecting the image along the lens through the black portions at the edges of the frames. It means that the frames themselves are thick, though, making the wearer look pretty stupid, but Sony might manage to slim down the tech to make the glasses more attractive in future iterations. As we've mentioned before, the Sony SmartEyeglasses are still in prototype form.

The final product we want to mention in this comparison is Sony's SmartEyeglass Attach, which we think could be the most successful out of them all commercially. Sony SmartEyeglass Attach clips onto the side of your own glasses, and is reasonably discrete.

Like the Google Glass, it uses a prism for the display that can be repositioned closer or further away from your eye to help with focusing, though Sony has managed to make the SmartEyeglass Attach prism tiny and therefore much less obvious. Unlike the full SmartEyeglass, the Attach has a colour display.

Google Glass vs Sony SmartEyeglass vs Toshiba Glass: Design

Taking a closer look at the overall design of the smartglasses, which is hugely important for wearable tech, particularly when you're going to be wearing it on your face…

Google Glass is one of the most attractive so far, but it's far from dainty and many will feel a bit silly wearing it, at least at first. It's available to buy in several different colours, including black, white, blue, brown or a sort of orangey red. The standard frame is a metal band that wraps around your head, sitting just above your eyebrows and tucking behind your ears. Two curved pieces of metal with plastic nibs fit the band onto your nose to keep it in place. There are no actual lenses in the frames.

Google does offer different frames, though, including frames for prescription glasses and sunglasses.

Toshiba Glass has a huge range of frames, varying from normal-looking glasses in different designs to sports sunglasses and protective goggles. As mentioned above, there's a projector attached to the side of the glasses, and it's brilliantly small. There is a catch, though. Inside the portion attached to the frames is the projector and the projector alone. The battery and other essential technology is housed in a separate component that is connected through a wire that is always on show, so it's not an ideal solution.

They are foldable, though, which makes them more portable than the Google Glass and Sony SmartEyeglass.

The same goes for the Sony SmartEyeglass, which is the least attractive option with clunky and honestly rather ugly frames that still require an external component wired up to the glasses themselves.

The Sony SmartEyeglass attach, on the other hand, is just a small device that will be able to attach to glasses that the consumer already owns. This means that, not only is it portable, but you also don't need to commit to wearing it all day. It's reasonably small, but the prototype we tried does require a wire leading to an external component.

Google Glass vs Sony SmartEyeglass vs Toshiba Glass: Features

When it comes to functionality, the various smartglasses listed here can help you achieve many of the same things. Sony SmartEyeglass, Sony SmartEyeglass Attach and Google Glass all have cameras built-in for features such as taking photographs and apps including facial recognition.

Toshiba has left out the camera for now, but there's no reason the company won't decide to add one at a later date.

Of the four devices, Google Glass is the only one that really seems to have got interaction down pat. There's a touchpad built-in to the outer edge of the component on the side of the glasses that can detect swipes, taps and double taps. The smartglasses can also be controlled using head movements and by speaking to it. To activate the speech recognition, users simply need to say "OK Glass, and then issue commands such as "take a photo" or "Get directions to".

Sony's SmartEyeglass has a touchpad on the puck-shaped attachment that is wired but to the glasses. It also offers voice control.

There's less information out there about how the Sony SmartEyeglass Attach would be controlled, as the prototype on display at CES 2015 was hooked up to a repeating demo. There doesn't seem to be a touchpad, so it could be limited to just speech. The same goes for the Toshiba Glass, which was also limited to a looping demo at CES.

Each of the four devices requires a smartphone in order to work.

Google Glass uses bone conduction technology to provide sound, which worked brilliantly during our testing. The speaker in the Sony SmartEyeglass is found in the puck-shaped external component, while the Toshiba Glass seems to lack a speaker and microphone completely at the moment.

Google Glass vs Sony SmartEyeglass vs Toshiba Glass: Apps

Where the real purpose of smartglasses begins to become apparent is in the apps available. Google Glass already has lots of apps available, and the number is growing consistently as Google has opened up the SDK to third-party developers. See: Best apps for Google Glass

In addition to the expected notifications and navigation apps, Google Glass can also allow you to play virtual reality games, search the web, track fitness and activity data, make notes, follow recipies and more.

Tesco has recently launched a Google Glass app called Tesco Grocery Glassware to let users view nutritional information and add items to their shopping basket hands-free.

Sony SmartEyeglass, SmartEyeglass Attach and Toshiba Glass offer similar apps, and as developers begin exploring new possibilities the app numbers will grow.

Specifically, though, Sony SmartEyeglass apps shown off include an AR Shooting game, a speech translation app, a facial recognition app and a navigation/tourism app that shows you where the nearest attractions and shops are, for example.

Sony SmartEyeglass Attach offers apps for golfers to show which hole they're at, what the par is and how far away the hole is from their current position, as well as navigation apps for runners and more.

Toshiba Glass will first be targeted at businesses, particularly construction and factories with tailored apps for finding stock in warehouses, for example, but apps that make following recipes easy and discovering local cuisine while travelling were demoed too.

Google Glass vs Sony SmartEyeglass vs Toshiba Glass: Price & availability

Google Glass is the only prototype out of the four mentioned in this article that has been available for you to buy in the UK. It costed £1,000, but the company put an end to its availability on 19 January 2015 ahead of the launch of a new version in the future.

Meanwhile, Sony suggests that the SmartEyeglass will be available for developers this year and the SmartEyeglass Attach will enter mass production in 2015, while Toshiba says it'll be launching its Glass for businesses this year ahead of a more public release perhaps at the end of this year or beyond.

We wouldn't recommend buying any smartglasses yet, unless you're a developer or are prepared to cough up more cash in the near future when much improved versions become available.

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