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Coming soon: Augmented reality glasses for pro athletes?

Sunglasses king Oakley reveals that it's developing a prototype for computerized shades just days after Google unveiled a video for Project Glass

Imagine if a football coach could beam the X's and O's from his clipboard directly into players' field of view, or if a baseball player who's next at bat could see the pitcher's ERA in his sunglasses. Eyewear manufacturer Oakley is looking to make that dream a reality with a line of augmented reality glasses intended for athletes. Here, a guide to the project, and what it means for the future of wearable computing: 

Why is Oakley making computerized frames?The company has been researching heads-up displays for its frames for quite some time, and hasn't given up the ghost. "We've been chasing this beast since 1997," Oakley CEO Colin Baden tells Bloomberg. "Obviously, you can think of many applications in the competitive field of sports. That's... where we would begin." The company currently has 600 patents on hand for such an endeavor, many with optical specifications. In fact, glasses with built in MP3 players, like the Oakley Thumps, have been part of the company's product line since 2004. 

Does Oakley stand a chance against Google Glass?Yes. Google's Glass project, announced in early April, drew the internet's attention with a splashy, futuristic video, but Oakley could have an advantage, at least from a consumer standpoint. "If there is one thing Oakley knows, it's optics," says Casey Chan at Gizmodo. With any luck, Oakley's version won't be as "ugly" as Google's. 

How would the glasses work?Baden is mum on the specifics, but he hints that the glasses would offer similar functionality to a smartphone, capable of working both independently and syncing with your regular handheld via Bluetooth. Wearers would input commands using their voice, just the way you use Apple's virtual assistant Siri. That all sounds great, says Ed Oswald at PC World, but would such technology "give a wearer an unfair advantage?" If you your Oakley shades are telling you "when to hit a baseball," that might be crossing the line.

Will anyone but rich athletes be able to afford them?The first few generations of the headset most certainly "wouldn't be cheap," says Chris Davis at Slashgear. It's too early to really know the cost anyway, since there's not even a launch timeline. Oakley, in fact, still has a number of hurdles to overcome, including figuring out how to seamlessly blend virtual content with the real world. If that's done improperly, the device could easily "prompt headaches and discourage use."

Sources: BBC, Bloomberg, Gizmodo, PC World, Slashgear

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