Oakley wishes to challenge Google Glasses

Source: Bloomberg, Apr 2012

Oakley Inc. is developing technology that can project information directly onto lenses, putting the sunglass maker into potential competition with Google Inc. (GOOG)

The technology would let Oakley, a division of Italy’s Luxottica Group SpA (LUX), make hardware that’s comparable with Google’s Project Glass, an experimental effort to build smartphone features into eyewear, Oakley Chief Executive Officer Colin Baden said in an interview.

Oakley would initially target athletes with products based on the so-called heads-up technology, Baden said.

Early versions of the product would not be cheap, Baden said. The product should be able to function on its own, while also working with a smartphone wirelessly using Bluetooth, he said. The device might be controlled with voice commands, similar to Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s Siri software, he said.

“There’s a lot of interesting optical issues that come up when you’re trying to create a positive experience when interacting with these devices,” Baden said. “So the technology barrier to success is significant.”

Baden declined to comment on whether Oakley would release its own so-called smart glasses, but he said the market for such a device is ripe. He said Oakley would have an edge over more tech-savvy competitors because the company is able to create stylish accessories.

“People get very particular when they put stuff on their face,” Baden said.

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