Augmented Reality Smart Glasses
Augmented reality smart glasses are wearable devices that overlay digital 3D images or holograms on the user’s environment. They work by using geolocation technology, sensors, SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) algorithms or all of the above to determine which real-world scenes and environments to augment with augmented reality content.
AR glasses vary in shape and size, but they all share the same goal of enhancing reality with helpful information and data. While VR headsets are superior if you’re after immersive experiences, smart glasses are an excellent choice for the workplace and on the go.
North Focals are a pair of smart glasses that could be AR’s route to the mainstream. These snazzy specs deliver pertinent information via non-invasive heads-up display, offer Alexa integration and support prescription lenses. Plus, they’re stylish and premium.
They’re not without their faults, but it’s hard to argue with the technology behind these smart glasses. They do away with a discernible screen panel, instead using a small projector squeezed into the right temple that beams notifications onto a photopolymer square integrated into the right lens. This displays the notification to you, but nobody else can see it (other than a ring of light on your index finger when you navigate Focals with the Loop controller).
TechCrunch found that while the headset has its limitations, such as being limited to notifications like text messages and emails, it’s still a neat piece of kit. For example, the ability to quickly respond to a message with smart replies or emojis is handy. Focals also help keep you on top of your day with calendar and weather updates and reminders. It even enables you to check your commute with live public transit data and control media apps like Spotify through voice commands.
And there’s plenty of software updates to come, too. A recent update enables you to search and navigate using the Loop augmented reality smart glasses controller, which looks similar to a standard thumb-switch.
Vuzix’s Blade offers a clear, crisp single-eye display that floats into the right lens using waveguide technology. It’s easily readable in normal light, with text and games displaying well. The frame itself looks a lot like a pair of black sunglasses, though there’s a fair amount of hardware built in, including batteries and a touchpad, a front-facing 8-megapixel camera, motion sensors and haptic feedback. There’s also a MicroSD slot and noise-canceling microphones.
The Blade is able to tap into the power of Amazon Alexa, with voice response and a touch interface that work very much the way you’d expect. It can be used as a standalone headset, or it can be paired over Bluetooth with an Android or iPhone device to mirror notifications and show photos or videos. It has a battery that lasts from two to 12 hours, and the company says it can be charged in as little as an hour.
The Blade comes with a small drawstring pouch, custom Vuzix-branded Bluetooth earbuds and a zip-up case that includes a USB to 3.5mm dongle for plugging in wired headphones and a micro-USB to USB cable for charging the glasses. It can also be connected to a PC via USB and accessed as a storage drive, with a window popping up on the desktop that allows you to transfer files.
Vuzix M4000 is the next generation of smart glasses that combine industry-specific applications and Augmented Reality technology in a rugged, durable design. It is lightweight enough for all-day wear and wraps around the entire head, reducing the risk of damage if it falls off. It also comes with a wide range of accessories to improve comfort, including a power bank, hat mount, and safety helmet mount.
The M4000 features the market-leading M400 platform from Vuzix with an upgraded see-through display. The new waveguide optics offer a more natural viewing state and make it easier to read information. It also has a larger field of view and a higher resolution than the previous model. The M4000 also uses a purpose-built Snapdragon XR1 processor from Qualcomm to deliver high-level performance for enterprise applications.
The M4000 can also be configured to work with a variety of Mobile Device Management (MDM) systems, such as Android 11 and Microsoft InTune. This allows IT departments to easily onboard large numbers of devices in a streamlined fashion and manage them from one central location. For example, an expert technician can video call a field service technician and walk them through a process of changing a chainsaw’s chain safely. This can save augmented reality smart glasses a lot of time and money. It also helps to ensure the safety of both employees and customers.
Two years ago, Beijing-based startup nReal demoed its smart glasses at two high-profile trade shows, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The lightweight, relatively affordable product looked like the kind of semi-transparent holographic graphic overlays that Tony Stark sees floating in front of him in his Iron Man suit.
The hardware is impressive: Light features a pair of displays that can project virtual images right in front of your eyes, and the image quality is good enough to create an effective sense of immersion. The device is also a lot lighter than existing head-mounted AR displays, and it only requires a small battery to power its micro-projectors.
Unlike the Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap AR headsets that use optical waveguides, the NReal Light uses a system called Birdbath optics, which consists of micro OLED screens whose light is reflected off a mirror. This makes the Light a more affordable alternative that still offers a wide range of MR experiences.
For example, the device has excellent 6DoF tracking, meaning that you can move your head naturally and the displayed content will follow you in virtual space as expected. The headset is also capable of recognizing physical objects using a camera and the Nebula operating system, and it can even display your smartphone’s screen through its display (although the phone must be connected to the device to do so). The only major drawbacks are the lack of apps that take advantage of these capabilities and a barebones control scheme that varies by app.