Why Do Sunglasses Need to Be More Than Sunglasses?


Are you in the market for new pair of sunglasses? If so, there are plenty of models for you to choose from. You can go for aviators or wayfarers. If you’re into pink or yellow cat eyes, you can buy them too. You can even buy sunglasses with on-board features that have nothing to do with protecting your eyes.

In the modern world of augmented reality (AR), tech companies just cannot help themselves. They are equipping sunglasses with all sorts of things. For example, you can buy shades with built-in cameras that let you take videos and pictures and automatically post them to social media. You can buy AR-enabled shades that display time, temperature, and other information right in front of your eyes.

For you audiophiles, there are now sunglasses with built-in Bluetooth and small speakers. Pair them with your phone and listen to your music on the go. The speakers are embedded in the arms to keep them as close to your ears as possible.

All of this is well and good, but why do sunglasses need to be more than sunglasses? Is just protecting the eyes not good enough?

Thank You, Google Glass

The idea of high-tech sunglasses isn’t actually new. Hollywood has been inventing fictional tech-enabled eyewear for decades. But that’s all it was: fiction. It wasn’t until Google embarked on its Glass project that fiction started edging closer to reality.

Google’s first iteration of Glass was a colossal failure. The company could not bring the cost down, nor could they alleviate concerns of people walking into public spaces wearing a pair of eyeglasses mounted with cameras. There were multiple reports of bars and lounges in Southern California banning Google Glass for privacy concerns.

That hasn’t stopped the tech giant from continuing to develop. And because of their willingness to pursue Glass, other tech companies have jumped on the bandwagon. Thus, the other examples mentioned in this post.

Heavy and Cumbersome

There must be customers willing to buy tech heavy sunglasses with built-in AR. If people were not buying them, companies wouldn’t be making them. But there seems to be a practical question here: aren’t these sunglasses heavy and cumbersome? It’s hard to imagine them not being at least a little bit challenging in both respects.

It’s true that a small pair of audio speakers doesn’t weigh much. Two small cameras are fairly light as well. But remember, almost the entire weight of a pair of sunglasses rests on the bridge of the nose. Those speakers and cameras can get pretty heavy after a couple of hours.

Wearing What is Uncomfortable

Olympic Eyewear, a Salt Lake City company that designs and distributes more than two-dozen brands of fashion sunglasses, explains that their designers pay a lot of attention to comfort. They understand that customers will not wear sunglasses they find uncomfortable. Furthermore, excess weight and a poor fit can cause discomfort.

It is easy to see how a pair of tech-enabled sunglasses could be uncomfortable simply due to their weight. Then there are balance issues as well. Finally, adjusting a pair to fit on the face properly isn’t so easy. Why? Because the technology gets in the way.

This brings us full circle to the main question of why sunglasses have to be more than sunglasses. What is wrong with simply protecting the eyes against ultraviolet rays and visible sunlight? Actually, there’s nothing wrong with it. There will always be a demand for plain old sunglasses that do what they were designed to do. High-tech glasses are more about the thrill of technology than anything else.