In brief: Smart glasses have a bit of a troubled past, and it's been difficult for any company to gain a solid foothold in this market segment (outside of niche enterprise use cases, anyway). However, Amazon is taking another crack at it with the 2nd generation of its Echo Frames smart glasses, a pair of eyewear that harnesses the power of Alexa to enhance your everyday life.
The glasses are releasing on December 10, 2020 (the same day that Cyberpunk 2077 comes out), but they're available for pre-order now if you simply can't wait to throw your cash at Amazon. Before you do that, though, let's dive into some details.
First of all, as we said, the latest Echo Frames have Alexa built-in. Thanks to their built-in microphones, this means you can ask the virtual helper to do pretty much anything you could ask it to do via an Echo Dot or Alexa-powered smartphone. It can place calls for you, start up a podcast, feed you the latest news, or allow you to control your smart home remotely.
Alexa's audio is fed to you through an "open-ear" sound system that aims to "minimize" what others can hear by sending audio directly to your ears. Some audio leakage is probably inevitable, but then, Amazon isn't marketing these devices as a way to listen to and blare your favorite tunes on the go (though it is one minor listed use case).
Instead, they're intended to give users a way to access virtually any information they might need at any given time with minimal hassle. And, with Alexa integration, they'll probably suit that purpose well enough. But for most people, these glasses seem a bit unnecessary.
Regardless, the frames feature splash resistance, and you can expect "over two hours" of battery life across voice calls, Alexa interactions, and media playback. Somewhat confusingly, Amazon also promises "4 hours of nonstop listening" on a full charge, so we're not sure which number is more accurate here. Perhaps Alexa requests and voice calls eat up more battery? Only end-users and reviewers will know, we suppose.
Frankly, there's not much else to say about the Frames. They're lightweight, they should fit "most" prescription lenses, and they've got a smart assistant built-in. If you're the type of person who is willing to shell out a sizable chunk of change for the convenience of not having to pull out your phone to talk to Amazon's AI, perhaps the Echo Frames will be a worthy purchase for you. If so, feel free to place your order early for $250.