A report by IHS highlights that 9.4 million smart glasses units could be shipped by the year 2016 – a significant jump from mere 50,000 units in 2012. The gigantic number of units shipped in five years is speculated to be a result of the initiative taken by Google towards “Google Glass” and also its efforts to promote app development for this new emerging category. However, we still don’t know how the smart glass technology will be perceived by the masses.

Based on an optimistic forecast, the report suggests that the expansion of smart glasses category could actually begin in 2014 when the Google Glass is finally made available to the public. Talking about this year, the growth could climb 150 percent to 1,24,000 shipments, which will be mostly driven by sales to developers.

A Glass photo sample released by Google

Google Glass shouldn't simply be a wearable camera

Theo Ahadome, Senior Analyst, IHS, believes that applications will be more critical than the hardware when it comes to the success of Google Glass. He said, “The hardware is much less relevant to the growth of Google Glass than for any other personal communications device in recent history. This is because the utility of Google Glass is not readily apparent, so everything will depend on the appeal of the apps. This is why the smart glass market makes sense for a software-oriented organization like Google, despite the company’s limited previous success in developing hardware. Google is betting the house that developers will produce some compelling applications for Glass.”

Again, considering an optimistic scenario, IHS feels that developers will succeed in producing augmented reality applications for smart glasses. The report also assumes that these augmented reality apps will be easy and convenient to integrate and use. It states some future uses of smart glasses, such as live updates for travel, location reviews and recommendations, nutritional information and matching personal preferences.

Having said that, IHS also points out that if the Google Glass doesn’t evolve and is simply a wearable camera, like the one displayed at the Google I/O developer conference in 2012, then the number of smart glasses expected to be shipped through 2016 could fall down to 1 million. However, Google Glass may not be the only device in this category; it may face competition from several other players. Rumours have been surfacing about smart glasses from Microsoft and Sony too. The competition may lead to the further evolvement of the smart glasses category.

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