Japan and overseas companies battle over the wearable technology industry

Japan and overseas companies battle over the wearable technology industry

Companies in Japan and overseas are accelerating their development of "wearable technology"- items such as wristwatches and eyeglasses with data processing capabilities.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. is expected to soon announce a new watch-type device and Google Inc., of the United States, has generated considerable buzz over its Google Glass product.

And with domestic makers including Sony Corp. hurrying to enter the market, competition over the next generation of computing devices is expected to heat up.

Samsung is expected to announce its Galaxy Gear "smartwatch" this week at the IFA 2013 trade show in Germany. Its specs have not been made public, but it is expected to be a small device that can make phone calls and connect to the Internet.

Apple Inc. of the United States is also thought to be developing a wristwatch-type device called the iWatch. The tech giant applied for trademark registration for the name in Japan in June.

Google Glass prototypes, released in May, work via voice recognition to execute tasks such as getting directions or translating words, with the information being displayed on a tiny screen in front of the right eye. The device, which can also take photos and video, is expected to go on sale before the end of the year.

The market for wearable tech - seen as the next generation of data-processing devices - is expected to grow, with Yano Research Institute predicting a market in the 100-million-unit range for watch-type devices and in the 10-million-unit range for eyeglass-type devices.

Japanese tech firms, which have lagged behind Samsung and Apple in smartphones, are hoping to create a place for themselves in this market.

Sony plans to release its SmartWatch 2 next month. The device is designed to connect wirelessly with a user's smartphone to send and receive e-mails, display maps, and function as a music player.

Olympus Corp. has been working since 2003 on the MEG, which attaches to glasses to show images and other information on a tiny 9-square-millimeter display that does not obstruct the wearer's field of vision.

QD Laser Inc., a start-up firm based in Kawasaki and capitalised in part by Fujitsu Ltd., has developed an image-projection device that sits inside the frame arm of a pair of eyeglasses.

The device emits a laser that is reflected on a part of the lens, projecting the image directly onto the wearer's retina. The technology allows even people with poor vision to see clear images or enjoy videos.

The company plans to have the device on the market by the end of fiscal 2015. "We want to sell it worldwide for less than the cost of a smartphone," QD Laser President Mitsuru Sugawara said.

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