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Will Smartglasses Rebound In 2017?

In the year’s since the rise and fall of Google Glass, smart-glasses have remained a highly-niche and out of reach area of consumer electronics. However, analysts predict that 2017 could see the category begin to bounce back.

According to Strategy Analytics‘ Steven Waltzer, “The global smartglasses market is on life-support, but it is NOT dead. “Phase one” for the industry, from 2012 to 2016, has unquestionably been a flop, most notably on the consumer side. But this is NOT unusual for first-generation gadgets, because most new products fail as consumers struggle to understand or afford them. The ball is now firmly in the court of the smartglasses industry to bounce back in “phase two” during 2017 to 2022. The wearables industry must computerize glasses, goggles and sunglasses — and give consumers or businesses compelling reasons and benefits to upgrade from their old “analog” spectacles to modern “digital” smartglasses”

“It will not be easy, but it is certainly doable,” he writes.

Waltzer identifies the prominence of the enterprise market for the category throughout the 2012-2016 period and highlights the role of tech giants “such as Epson, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Google and others” when it comes to expanding the market towards mainstream consumers going forward.

“Over 1 billion consumers and workers worldwide today wear spectacles, contact lenses, goggles or sunglasses — simply converting, say, 10%, of that total to computerized smartglasses will mean an addressable market well into the tens of millions,” he says.

Strategy Analytics data suggests that global smartglasses sales could grow 63% in 2016.

It’s widely expected that social media giant Snapchat will play a big role here. Early word is that their low-end Spectacles are set to bring smart-glasses to the masses at a price-point and business model that could break through the negative stigma left by the failure of Google Glass.

Priced at $130 US, they sit far below the thousand dollar pricetags attached to enterprise-level offerings and, at least so far, Snapchat has used limited supply of the product to its advantage.

Each time the company plants a new vending machine selling the Spectacles, it generates far more excitement and hype than a standard tech launch would.

Snapchat’s continued success in the face of Facebook’s efforts to render them obsolete has very much been due to the strength of their brand – and their ability to leverage has been on full display when it comes to the Spectacles’ stealth-launch.

While the usual suspects like Apple and Samsung are said to be readying their own smart-glasses, there’s still a lot of exciting independent players like Everysight who will likely have a role to play in developing the consumer benefits smartglasses need to take off in that mainstream market.

Google Glass and – to a lesser degree – smartwatches have already demonstrated that emerging and wearable tech devices like smartglasses aren’t going to sell themselves on concept alone.

Going into 2017, it looks like tech companies might have finally gotten the message.

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