The Bulletin

ION glasses ride the Google wave

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Spanish investor Santiago Ambit designed the ION smart glasses (pictured)

A Spanish start-up is using category interest driven by Google and practicality to propel its ION smart glasses to become a popular smartphone accessory.

Inventor Santiago Ambit and I met last week to discuss ION given the buzz around Google Glass. ION is being financed through an indiegogo campaign that has raised over US$28,000 toward its $150,000 funding goal to date. The glasses cost $79 for donors and will retail at $129. Google Glass is $1500.

That's because ION is a very different product from Google Glass, which augments reality by overlaying data into the wearer's line of sight. ION is riding on Google's coattails as consumer interest in wearable devices rises, but it only provides notifications through multicolor LEDs that are controlled with apps.

The apps allow the user to assign a color and frequency to notifications. So, e-mail could be green and WhatsApp could be assigned blue. Bluetooth 4.0 connects the device to smartphones, which enables apps to provide information on the status of its battery, or conversely, buzz if a connection is lost.

ION glasses can be fitted with prescription lenses and will also be available as sunglasses. Ambit is working with designer Mac Funamizu on new models that would be higher fashion. The existing mold resembles a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses (fay-bans). It's unlikely that will happen for a while, because most of the $150,000 is going toward certifications (FCC, UL, etc).

Every new model would have to go through the same process even if the chips were the same. European certifications cost less, but ION is targeting the U.S. Ambit is traveling to China next week to make a mold for manufacturing in Spain. High unemployment has spurred start-up growth in the country.

Several other Glass competitors are within sight. The entrants include Recon Instruments, which is making its "Jet" glasses for athletes; and Meta's "SpaceGlasses" project 3-D images in front of the user and has several apps. Intel has invested in Recon.

IDC anticipates that there will be 64 million shipments of wearable devices in 2017. There are 8.3 million devices purchased in 2012 such as fitness trackers and less novel things than Glass.

(image credits: David Worthington, ION)

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— By on October 13, 2013, 1:40 PM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure