We’ve all heard the term ‘smart glasses’. Some of us may have even been part of the trial group of product testers with Google Glass, Google’s enhanced eyewear product that hit the tech scene back in 2013. Although Glass has yet to find mainstream success, that clearly didn’t deter Amazon from venturing into the smart eyewear market. Here’s what we know so far about the upcoming Alexa-powered eyewear.
How they work
For the most part, the Echo Frames ($179.99) operate in the same way as other Alexa-powered devices. You just say the Alexa wake word and utter your request. The Frames’ main purpose is to make it easier to use Alexa without ever reaching for your smartphone.
The glasses also ping you with notifications from your smartphone, which you can manage through the Alexa app. You can swipe the side of the frames to accept a notification or tap to dismiss.
When you receive notifications, Alexa will tell you which app or device it’s coming from. For example, if your Ring Doorbell camera spots activity at your front door, Alexa will let you know through your Frames that someone’s at the door. From there, you can choose to accept or dismiss Alexa’s notification.
How they look
The Echo Frames look like regular eyeglasses with slightly thicker arms and clear plastic lenses. But Amazon provides instructions in the package you can give your optometrist to fit them with prescription lenses. Unlike other smart glasses players like Google Glass, the Frames don’t come with a camera or integrated display.
But what the glasses do have are two tiny speakers built into each arm and a microphone for talking to Alexa. Amazon designed the speakers for the sound to reach only your ears but doesn’t get loud enough for others nearby to hear. This is possible through four beam-forming micro-speakers that shoot sound directly at your ears so it’s difficult for people around you to hear.
How you use them
The Frames have three buttons on the right arm. The one closest to the hinge mutes the microphone, the one behind that raises the volume, and the one closest to your ear lowers the volume. You can pause any music that might be streaming over Bluetooth by tapping the exterior of the right arm.
In addition to streaming music and talking to Alexa, you can also use the smart glasses for making phone calls and sending and receiving texts. The Frames will notify you of incoming texts and, if you opt to listen, read them aloud to you. And to avoid being flooded with unimportant alerts, the Frames app will let you enable a VIP filter that lets you choose certain notifications to be sent to you and others to remain in your inbox without being announced in your ear.
You could choose to have the Frames read texts from your close friends, family, boss and home security cameras, for example, and elect to ignore everything else.
Amazon promises that the Echo Frames will pack 14 hours of use off a full charge with the volume at 60%. They’ll come with a charging port that connects on the right-hand arm. Bottom of Form
Note: The Echo Frames are currently available by invitation only.