AR Glasses: The new mobile phones?
Augmented Reality(AR) has been much more accessible to mass users due to the possibility of experiencing it using your own mobile device. However, there have also been numerous AR glasses that have been developed to be worn and used more conveniently than a mobile device. They allow users to interact with both the real and virtual worlds at the same time thanks to the superimposition of Augmented Reality effects to the world around them. This experience is created thanks to the cameras in these devices that scan and capture the real world environment around them and then overlays the virtual elements to give the user a more immersive experience. Unlike virtual reality where the user is stuck in the virtual world, augmented reality glasses allow users to have unimaginable experiences in their own environments without having to be stuck looking through a phone screen. They open up the world to the possibilities of making Augmented Reality more convenient and make them a part of our everyday lives.
#1: Microsoft HoloLens 2
One of the biggest players in the AR headset market is the Microsoft HoloLens that recently had the release of its second new and improved version in 2019 - the Microsoft HoloLens 2. It has been described as being truly ahead of its time with its ability to detect and attach objects to all surfaces including clear ones through its spatial mapping. The features that set it apart from the rest include its 1MP Time-of-Flight depth sensor has given it more reliability and the ability to anchor better and its eye-tracking via infrared cameras. The hand tracking that the device provides is another amazing feature that allows objects and holograms to respond to your hand like real objects. The product also takes the comfort of the wearer into consideration with it being much less bulky and lighter than its predecessor. The resolution is at 2048 x 1080 pixels and the fact that the HoloLens responds to voice commands gives it a one up to other AR headsets from a user that looks to use it as a main communication device. One of the only downfalls is the field of view which is at 52°, giving you a relatively small segment of your surroundings that can be enjoyed with Augmented Reality but is still much more than its competitors. Other than that, the HoloLens 2 serves its main purpose and gives users the entertainment that it set out to give.
#2: Nreal Air
Next on our list are the Nreal Air glasses that were released recently and have become one of the most discreet ways to experience Augmented Reality. At a glance, you may barely recognise them as more than a pair of shades but these glasses sport a resolution of 3840 by 1080 pixels and are a lightweight, portable option to use. What might put users off this otherwise good pair of glasses is the fact that they require a connection to a smartphone whenever they are in use which is achieved through a USB-C cable. This leads to another problem: these glasses are only compatible with newer Android phones and cannot be used with iPhones or older Android phones. Although the transparent displays allow for a fascinating mixed reality effect, the Nreal glasses do not have front-facing cameras so the elements cannot interact with their environment like the AR apps on other AR headsets and glasses. It also has an Air Casting mode which allows users to mirror their phone displays on a virtual 130 inch display in front of them. Despite its flaws, it’s still a great option, especially for gaming and movie enthusiasts.
#3: Lenovo ThinkReality A3
Lenovo also came up with their own AR glasses at the end of 2021, the ThinkReality A3 Smart Glasses with a binocular 1920x1080 pixel resolution and an 8MP camera. The field of view is still at about 47° and these too require a connection to a mobile device or PC via a removable USB-C cable. The device is able to recognise voices, objects and images and perform head and gaze tracking while they are in use. They are also able to provide users with virtual monitors with 100% privacy and take into consideration remote workers who may not have the space and privacy required for physical monitors.
#4: Magic Leap 1
Throwing it back to one of the first AR glasses in the business, we have the Magic Leap 1 that made its way into the market in 2018. With a resolution of 1280 x 960 pixels and a 50° field of view, it trails slightly behind the newer options that are currently available. Despite its price being relatively much steeper than expected, Magic Leap gave people hope about a future with a better and more realistic Augmented Reality experience.
The future of augmented reality looks truly promising with Snapchat looking to release the 4th generation of its very own Spectacles, their first true AR glasses. They are currently not for sale and have only been demod to selected audiences. As of right now, their displays are relatively small and have been difficult to look through for long periods of time.They are considerably light and flexible, making them comfortable to leave on. The brightness of 2000 nits allows the displays to work well in sunlight, an issue that affects many other AR glasses. Spectacles also hope to flex an incredible feature called Custom Landmarkers where specific Augmented Reality scenes are superimposed onto local landmarks for all Spectacles users to enjoy. The Scan feature, which is also currently under development, allows users to scan objects in their everyday environment and get suggestions for AR effects called Lenses that they might enjoy. Spectacles even dives into the idea of an ecosystem where creators of these Lenses can be tipped and sent in-app gifts. Although the Spectacles currently have issues that need to be resolved including display size and battery life, they show a lot of promise for a world where AR is integrated into it much more smoothly.
#6: Apple AR Glass
The most interesting development in the AR glasses world is the upcoming release of the Apple Glasses. These glasses are yet to be announced and most information is based on leaked patents which adds to the mystery surrounding them. The Apple Glasses are rumoured to rely on an iPhone for processing and will allow users to access information from your phone through them. Although most other AR glasses call for special prescription lenses to be attached to them or allow for glasses to be worn under them, the Apple Glasses are believed to be able to adjust the users’ eyesight. A recent patent also has people believing that they might use retinal projection instead of a display which would help avoid problems associated with side effects from using displays that are extremely close to users’ eyes. They may even be able to change the users’ backgrounds, similar to zoom and allow users to view different parts of the world through projection using its lenses. Very little is known about it and getting information about any other specs of the Apple Glass are based solely on it living up to the standards set up by its existing competitors.
In the past 5 years, AR glasses have come a long way and will continue to downsize and become similar to everyday glasses and in the next 5 to 10 years they may even replace mobile phones as people’s primary mode of communication and entertainment.