Will 2018 be the Year of the Augmented Reality Smartglasses?

Industry Round Up 2017
Fuzzy Logic Industry Round Up of 2017 – AR, Games and Apps
January 29, 2018

Will 2018 be the Year of the Augmented Reality Smartglasses?

AR Smartglasses

‘Headsets’, “head-mounted devices’, ‘smartglasses’, it doesn’t matter what you call them, we here at Fuzzy Logic believe that 2018 will be the year augmented reality wearable tech takes a giant leap!

ABI Research figures show that the market for wearable computing-like smartglasses will grow to $55 billion by 2022 as unit volumes explode from about 6 million in 2017 to 50 million.

As there are so many things happening in this arena, we have taken it upon ourselves to give you the lowdown on the AR smart glasses market, and try to figure out what you are likely to be strapping to your head over the next 12 months. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, just a snapshot of what we think is worth considering if you have an AR project in mind or just keeping your eye on generally.

 

Tethered versus Standalone

As the article The Four Waves of Augmented Reality that Apple Owns  sets out, there are two types of smartglasses/headsets, the tethered smartglasses which require a ‘host’ device such as a smartphone/tablet or PC host, and the standalone smartglasses where a ‘host’ device is not required. The pros and cons of each of these are discussed in depth in the aforementioned article.

 

Tethered Smartglasses

Image via Meta

Meta 2 – Price $949 (Developer Kit)

Meta is a silicon valley company that raised $194,444 (out of a $100,000 goal) through a very successful Kickstarter campaign. This money was used to create the first version of their AR smartglasses, Meta 1, which was released in 2014. After further successful funding rounds (over $73 million), Meta 2 was announced in February 2016.

The Meta 2 has been designed as a tethered device which makes it a little less flexible to use, but hugely powerful. Meta’s aim is to replace desktop computers altogether. And with that in mind, they have developed software for the Meta called Workspace and their employees are currently experimenting with using Meta for work purposes in their own headquarters. “I have not used any computing device except for my iPhone and Meta 2 for three weeks now……This is the end of my third week of being computer free.” ” Meta VP Ryan Pamplin, the startup’s evangelist, told Business Insider in an article last year. The fact that the Meta 2 headset is also being integrated Dassault’s Solidworks CAD product as a virtual viewer, gives it a huge boost in this growing market sector.

While the Meta 2 is quite big, it is fairly lightweight but tends to produce an overly-transparent image, making focusing a bit of an issue. Read more here about Business Insider’s demo of Meta and it’s software, Workspace.

 

Image via Daqri

Daqri Smart Glasses ($4,995)
Touted as a head-mounted computer, the Daqri Smart Glasses have been developed from the creators of the Daqri Smart Helmet. They are technically a tethered device, however, as you can see from the photo above, the computer powering these glasses is a little larger than a smartphone and can clip onto a belt or be slipped into a pocket.

The smartglasses are 75% lighter than the company’s previous products so If you are in a commercial or business environment, and likely to be wearing these for extended periods of time, weight need not now be an issue.

The Daqri smartglasses have been aimed directly at large scale enterprises. It is reckoned that over 200,000 professionals from more than thirty countries use Daqri Smart Glasses for innovative design, engineering, manufacturing, and real-time supply chain insight and logistics services, in companies of all sizes in various industries and end-markets. It is for this reason that Daqri have focused on the ‘ruggedness’ and robustness of the glasses as well as their ability to be used outdoors as well as indoors, overcoming some of the problems with bright light that can marr the performance of other AR smartglasses.

 

Tethered – Not yet released

 

Image via Magic Leap

Magic Leap One ($3000)
Magic Leap has been a long time coming. Having been in development for over five years and attracting millions of dollars of investment from the likes of Google and Alibaba, the industry is waiting with baited breath for the first release of these goggle-like AR glasses.

According to techradar.com, the recently released Creator Edition is aimed at “creators” such as including “developers, brands agencies and even early adopter consumers’.

The whole package consists of a headset (referred to as ‘Lightwear’) that is tethered to a mini computer strapped around the waist by a belt (referred to as the ‘Lightpack’) and a hand-held wireless controller. The company have stated that the headset will also be controlled via voice, gesture, head pose and eye tracking.

Touted as a spatial computer, the Magic Leap uses photonics to generate digital images at different depths, blending seamlessly with natural light to produce lifelike digital objects that coexist in the real world. Little else is known about the glasses and we wait to see what changes are made before the glasses ship later this year.

 

Untethered Smartglasses

 

Image via Hololens

Microsoft Hololens ($1,495)
Hololens is probably the best known and highest profile system on the market. Microsoft also call their headset a spatial computer and it is already setting the industry standard for business applications. Based on Windows 10 technology and using a combination of see-through holographic lenses, an array of sensors including a depth camera, and the processing required to understand your gestures, gaze, voice, and the environment around you, the Hololens immerses you into a world of mixed reality.

Microsoft see AR as the next logical step in business interaction enabling people in different locations to all view, discuss and collaborate on the same images/graphics/models. They tout the technology’s potential to revolutionize the workforce, with a particular emphasis on features for those working out in the field, or with those dealing face to face with customers. For these workers the Hololens is being used for on the job training, expert help when out in the field, as well as giving them access to real time data and information required to carry out their daily tasks.

 

 

Image via ODG

ODG Smart Glasses ($2,750)

ODG – short for Osterhout Design Group – have been in the business of developing smartglasses since 1999. Like Daqri, ODG have focused on business and industry rather than entertainment, designing self-contained, computerized glasses with photo-realistic, “see-through”, 3D displays, giving users the ability to experience telepresence, tele-maintenance and tele- repair everywhere. ODG smartglasses are being hailed as the next major step forward in security by companies as large as Mastercard, who are looking to revolutionise the way we shop.

They have four different versions, the R-7, R7HL, R-8 and R-9. First released in 2015, the R-7 model is primarily enterprise focused. The 720p stereoscopic see thru lenses with 80% transparency and ability to show videos at 80fps, is backed up by a 2.7GHz 4-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor. It offers a 30 degree field of view, and is 2.7kgs.

The latest R-7 version, R-7HL, announced last year, is a ‘ruggedized’ version of the R-7 model specifically enhanced to meet the needs of workplaces such as worksites. “Smart glasses will replace safety glasses,” ODG’s Chief Operating Officer Pete Jameson told Forbes. “In hazardous conditions, workers have to have glasses on anyway — why not make them smart?”

Leveraging Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835. the R-9 offers a much wider field of vision of 50 degrees, has 1080p stereoscopic see thru lenses, a 13MP autofocus camera plus an ultrawide fisheye for tracking and positioning. Aimed at ‘enterprise design, and visualization, gaming and entertainment, and extended reality development’ it is boasted to be ODG’s ‘visualisation powerhouse’. The R-8 is aimed more at consumers and is due to be shipped at the end of 2018.

 

 

Image via Vuzix

Vuzix Blade (Developer kit $1,000)

“These $1,000, Alexa-enabled smart glasses feel like the first fully baked AR product since the failure of Google Glass” claims Nick Statt of theverge.com.

Designed to run on Android 5.0 together with Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant embedded in the device, the Vuzix Blade is powered by a quad-core ARM processor. The glasses feature waveguide-based, see-through optics driven by a Cobra II DLP-based display that’s projected onto the glass and gives you constant feedback. Over to the left is a discrete 8-Megapixel camera to help with interfacing. While it is an untethered device – it’s a fully functional computer – it must be tethered via Bluetooth to a smartphone or connected to a Wi-Fi network to access certain features, like email and texts.

Input is by touch on capacitive surfaces on the side of glasses, making operation neat and tidy but while it is slick, it still harks back to the gesture weirdness that accompanied Google Glass. On the other hand, it is a lot more effective. The really good news is that because all the smart stuff is in the oversized frames of the glasses, and they can be fitted with prescription lenses, you won’t need to switch between these and regular glasses.

Aesthetically, while they do look a bit goofy, they are the best step yet towards ‘normal looking’ glasses and, as theverge.com claim, “beyond the soft glow of bluish white light an outside observer may notice pulsing behind the right side lens, you’d have to get up close and personal to tell a user was wearing a computer over their eyes.”

Untethered – Not yet released

 

Image via vrandfun.com

Intel Vault
The most noticeable thing about the Intel Vault smartglasses is how much they look just like a set of regular glasses. The main design intent of this future product is to make it look normal, but that may come at the expense of performance and computing power – possibly the fundamental reasons to be wearing AR glasses in the first place!

The Vault has all of its microelectronics in its arms, keeping them neatly out of the way, and it uses a novel imaging design which uses lasers to form an image directly on the user’s retina. While shining lasers in your eyes is generally a bad thing, these are very low level and the huge advantage of doing it this way is that the image produced is always crystal clear, regardless of the state of your eyes.

The Vault is aimed at creating a normal-looking product that has the potential for connectivity and social interaction, rather than being an all-round future computing solution. However, according to slate.com, Intel are seeking ‘to show off ways that its tech can go inside other brands’ glasses to make them “smart.” The point here is to demonstrate that its inventive componentry support smart glasses that people won’t feel categorically uncool wearing, rather than glasses that will end up on the market.’

 

Apple AR Glasses
As we’ve seen from the launch of ARKit las year, Apple are fully committed to AR and the good news is that they are now starting to develop their own bespoke smartglasses.

Much of the industry knowledge regarding the Apple AR is gleaned from IP and patent grabs, which show details of optical systems for head-mounted displays and head tracking in virtual 3D space, but there is currently little to be identified in the way of saleable product.

Apple are plainly taking this seriously and want to enter the medium-priced market, but don’t expect anything to be hitting the stores before 2020.

 

“Augmented reality in an enterprise or industrial context needs to be able to clearly improve the solutions to existing problems in order to gain adoption. This will then lead the leveraging of richer functions in AR as it matures.”

– Ian Hughes, Senior Analyst IoT, 451 Research 

Fuzzy Logic are able to develop solutions on any of the platforms discussed above. In particular,  we are a preferred Microsoft Hololens developer and have been developing on this platform for two years. We are therefore perfectly positioned to work with you and your business to create meaningful and useful tools that can revolutionise the way you run your business.  Contact us today to discuss how we can help.

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