Smartglasses maker Vuzix made a big splash at CES 2018 with the inclusion of Amazon's Alexa voice assistant among the AR superpowers of its consumer-centric Blade smartglasses.
Now, it's time to tell Alexa to make room, as Vuzix is bringing Google Assistant support to Blade.
The app is now available via the Vuzix App Store. Blade owners will need a Google account and at least version 1.2.0 of the Blade companion app to get started.
Vuzix also recommends Bluetooth or wired headphones to take advantage of the voice-activated functions. While the Blade has a built-in microphone for voice input, the device does not have an embedded speaker for Assistant audio output; luckily, Blade comes with its own Bluetooth headphones as well as an audio jack for third-party wired headphones.
Once the app is installed, users can opt to set the Assistant as the default voice assistant in device settings. From there, users can wake up the Assistant with a three-finger long-press of the touchpad. The command works from any screen, regardless of which app is active, so that users can talk to the Assistant without changing apps.
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However, Vuzix notes that the app is an experimental build and not officially supported by Google, so some features may not work. According to a company spokesperson, many of the basic features are functional, but more advanced features, namely those that require access to Google services, may not work. In other words, users can, for example, expect to ask Google to check the weather or return general search results, but accessing personal calendar events or casting videos to a Chromecast-connected TV won't work.
Despite the somewhat rogue nature of the app, support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa gives the Vuzix Blade some additional mainstream appeal and more differentiation from its main competitor in the consumer smartglasses space, North's Focals, which only supports Alexa when activated by the handheld Loop controller. (Considering the fact that Amazon has an investment stake in North, don't hold your breath for the addition of Google Assistant to Focals.)
Vuzix can also claim better support for third-party apps, with Accuweather, Yelp, Pandora, and Spotify standing among the other mainstream apps available for Blade. To date, third-party app support for Focals (other than Alexa) is limited to Uber.
Of course, there are many other considerations between the two consumer-grade smartglasses options, such as style, functionality, and price. While the market is currently limited, the landscape is primed to expand exponentially over the next few years, with tech giants like Apple and Facebook expected to enter the fray, and upstarts like Nreal ready to introduce their own takes on AR wearables.