MASON, OHIO--Barnes & Noble (B&N) has announced an exclusive deal with LensCrafters to sell "PinkEye", its computer glasses product designed to compete against Google Glass.
Tech4Days got our hands on a prototype and here are our first impressions.
These glasses are solid. They weigh in at 13 pounds. A cord in the back attaches to the "NookPack" device, which is the size of a small server and can be carried around in a suitcase or backpack.
The PinkEye operating system is fairly easy to learn. Dragging your finger around on the right lens acts as a trackpad, while tapping on the left lens acts as a mouse. Pressing the "ALT" button enables right clicking functions, while pressing the "WIN" button opens Windows Notepad in emulator mode. In this mode, a keyboard appears on the glasses and users can tap on the lenses to type. We found this feature very useful on the subway when we wanted an entire seat to ourselves--simply tapping the lenses over our eyes repeatedly tended to make others move away quickly. The downside is that, over the course of a day, it becomes progressively harder to see as the glass absorbs oil from the skin. Wearing latex gloves while using the device helped solve this problem.
PinkEye allows users to read any book they have purchased on their Nook. The effect is like a book floating in front of your face. Driving was difficult while reading a book, but we managed to do it with only a couple of fender benders.
Unlike Google Glass, PinkEye does not have a battery and the NookPack must be plugged into an electrical outlet or a car cigarette lighter plug. The device does not support USB, but the three foot electrical cord made sitting on the floor right next to an AC outlet a breeze. PinkEye also does not have a web browser, can't play solitaire and cannot take photos or make videos. Even so, by repeatedly tapping on the side of the PinkEye and moving our head from side to side we were able to make a roomful of strangers at a local bar quite uncomfortable and agitated.
Unlike Google Glass, PinkEye is available for sale to the general public. It costs more, however, at $3,000 for the non-prescription version and $4,500 for the prescription version. Users who have VSP insurance through their employer are eligible for a $10 discount on the prescription version.
While we don't think PinkEye will be the Google Glass killer, it's nice to have another competitor in this market. B&N expects to sell at least 43 of the devices next year.