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Toshiba shows glasses with embedded display

Toshiba shows glasses with embedded display

The glasses use a projector like Google Glass but aren't wireless

The sporty version of Toshiba Glass

The sporty version of Toshiba Glass

Toshiba is eyeing the smart glasses market. The company is showing a prototype pair of glasses at the Ceatec trade show in Japan this week, and while they might not edge Google Glass out of the market, they should be a bit cheaper.

Called Toshiba Glass, they have a tiny, lightweight projector clipped onto one of the arms near the lens. That projector displays an image that reflects off the inside of the lens to provide an augmented reality-type display.

It's a similar principle to Google Glass, which also uses a built-in projector. But unlike Google Glass, Toshiba's glasses don't have a prism over the lens to reflect the image into the eye.

Instead, with Toshiba's product, the glasses lens itself comprises a series of narrow, vertical prisms. They're pretty much invisible when you look straight through the lens, but an image projected from an angle reflects back into the eye.

Toshiba says the glasses weigh 42 grams -- about the same as Google Glass, according to this report (Google doesn't give the weight in its specs). But they're far less impressive than Google's product for a few reasons.

One is that Toshiba Glass isn't wireless -- it connects to a smartphone in your pocket in order to work. That's partly because the battery for the projector would make the glasses too heavy, according to Toshiba -- although Google somehow managed it.

The other they're less impressive is that Toshiba Glass isn't a full-blown computer. It's really just a display system that connects to your smartphone.

Still, it might be a lot cheaper than Google Glass, which retails for $1,500.

Toshiba hopes to ship the product next year in Japan and North America, according to a representative at the Ceatec trade show near Tokyo, where Toshiba is showing its glasses for the first time.

It will offer three styles of frame -- standard, sporty, and industrial, the last being protective googles like you might wear in a lab.

Use cases include displaying information from a health app, so you can see your speed and heart rate while you're cycling uphill without pulling out your phone, for instance.

That type of everyday use seems unlikely, though, when the glasses need a cable hanging out the back. It's easier to imagine an industrial use case, like giving an engineer instructions to repair something, so they can still have both hands on the job.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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