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Testing the smartglasses that actually look like glasses

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What happens when a company that makes old-fashioned spectacles attempts smartglasses? You get something like Meme, from Japanese glasses maker JINS. Still in prototype stage and courting developers, the glasses will go on sale early this year for around $800 (correction: JINS expects the glasses to arrive priced somewhere far more reasonable: apparently that's the point). However, let's get out of the way what Meme doesn't do. There's no screen; there are no cameras. There's no voice activation or commands. But when I put them on, they feel like... glasses. And after testing some (if not all) of the other smartglasses, it was a relief. Is less more? JINS hopes so.

Gallery: JINS MEME glasses hands-on | 22 Photos

So while there are no cameras or infrared sensors, Meme is able to monitor blinks and eye movement in eight directions. How? Three-point electrooculography (EOG) sensors, residing inside the two nosepads and one on the bridge of your bespectacled nose. Apparently, the science involves monitoring minute electromagnetic signals from your nervous system (and the differential between your two eyes) that help to calculate where you're looking. At the CES booth, this involved an adorable 3D panda, which stared in the appropriate direction. No cameras needed. We also tested out a surprisingly intense art demo that used our eye movement and blinks to create a musical light show. It felt like it might not be quite as precise as camera-based eye-tracking, but the fact that it's possible without a lens staring at you is still pretty impressive, and given its developmental status, we're willing to be forgiving.

There's also a three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer to track head movement. This (alongside blink monitoring) allows the glasses to... somehow... gauge fatigue levels. A companion app offers up an estimation of your energy levels, calories burned and, er, a blink counter. Those sensors, because they're placed at your head, can also give a good guess at your posture and body positioning. The company has already teamed up with health tech company Omron and is looking at the health applications as the major feature for its specs. The battery is apparently fit for 16 hours of continuous use -- so you'll be using them all day, JINS hopes. Fortunate, then, that they're comfortable enough for that.

Edgar Alvarez contributed to this report.

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