As humans, the ways we interact with new technology are constantly changing. There has been tremendous progress until today, and we adapted ourselves to various ways of communication, mostly assisting us in our daily tasks. Starting from push-button mobile telephones now we are in the period where augmented reality freed our hands off smartphones. Smart watches became quite popular as they enabled users an easier way of checking our notifications and other basic tasks we normally did on our smartphones, without digging into our bags and struggling to pick up the call on time. And yet another solution to this problem is smart glasses.
Augmented reality glasses are more practical and casually wearable devices as anything we would like to see is projected to our retina. The way those glasses are designed aims to support the users without interrupting the flow of actions while walking, shopping, or talking. The users might feel like they’re some undercover agent as there’s no way other people can see that projection on the glasses.
Remember Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report” or “Iron Man” movies? Of course, they don’t launch missiles from one corner of the world nor do they have thermal vision cameras. These technologies are the simpler versions of Tony Stark’s “EDITH” which has heads-up displays for notifications, navigation through apps controlled by either Alexa or swiping the touchpad, or projecting holograms into the 3D space.
Let’s take a look at some of the best smart glasses on the market:
North – Focals
North is a Canadian company and the creator of Focals, one of the most successful AR glasses manufactured so far. In 2018, after buying 230 patents from their investor Intel (Intel had a canceled AR glasses project called “Vaunt”), they’ve achieved quite an expedited success in the business. The Focals does not provide a full AR experience- such as placing virtual objects in your real environment, but it creates a personalized layer right in front of your eyes. The only limitation to Focals is that they can’t work without a smartphone connection. Both Focals and Vaunt had the same basic idea initially: using a tiny laser embedded in the stem of your glasses to project a reflected image directly into your retina. Unlike other AR and VR efforts, the goal here was to create a pair of glasses you’d actually want to wear — something that looks relatively normal and doesn’t weigh too much.
North says that initially, “Focals will allow you to see and respond to texts, get turn-by-turn directions, check the weather, request an Uber, talk to Amazon Alexa, and more.” The ultimate goal is to develop a software platform with limited access to the data on your phone and maintain it separately, but this is just a long-term plan for now. However, the benefits it promised are a good stretch for our daily lives which can not be ignored. With Google acquiring North, the possibilities seem endless for this wearable technology. Google executive Osterloh states that North is going to add value to Google’s vision on ambient computing, which is computing that blends with the background of the user’s life.
Amazon – Echo Frames (2nd Generation)
When you first take a look at them, Amazon’s Echo Frames are as ordinary as our day-to-day eyeglasses. They’re lightweight and designed to look discreet, but it’s no indication of their capabilities. The glasses pair with your Android phone and can read out notifications, make phone calls, and play audio, including music and podcasts. Users can also ask Alexa for the important notifications and daily rundowns on the calendar, news and actually, Alexa does not do this randomly. The VIP filter of Alexa only reads out the messages and alerts or any notifications that may be important to the user. The others are left to check on through the smartphone.
There is no projected display onto the glasses of Echo Frames, as its name suggests, so unlike North’s Focals they’re not AR glasses. It’s just like having a reminder whispered into your ear in a way only you can hear so that they can assist you throughout your daily tasks without sharing your private life with the outside world. The bad news is iOS users are left out this time as Echo Frames are not supported by iOS devices.
Vuzix Smart Glasses
Vuzix is yet another company developing smart glasses for consumers to wear out in public, on a daily basis. The smart glasses (there is no official name for the CES 2021 model but in the first introductory video, they call it “Vuzix Next Generation Smart Glasses”) is one of the first all-self-contained augmented reality smart glasses available in the market. They are designed to mirror information from paired iPhones or Android-compatible smartphones.
Vuzix declared that the device will support Wi-Fi and optional LTE as well as stereo speakers and noise-canceling microphones. There will also be Android and iOS-supported gesture-based touch controls, presumably for controlling companion mobile apps using just the sides of the smart glasses. The device is able to project a stereoscopic monochrome or color image onto both lenses at a variety of pixel densities and resolutions. One important thing about these glasses is that they’re not only suitable for individual consumers. The company also focuses on enterprises to bring them business solutions through augmented reality.
The Next Generation Smart Glasses is expected to be released in 2021 summer which is any time now, yet we still know very little about the glasses except how it looks. However, the Vuzix Blade model released in 2019 created a buzz at the time with its built-in technologies such as Autofocus HD camera, integrated speakers in temples, noise-canceling microphones, full-color display, wireless wifi, and Bluetooth. Is the 2021 model going to be as compatible as the 2019 one? We will wait and see.
Facebook x Ray-Ban
In last year’s Facebook Connect Conference, Zuckerberg mentioned their upcoming partnership with Ray-Ban, for their B2C targeted smart glasses. Zuckerberg did not share the details of the glasses, all we know is that they will not have an integrated display of any kind. So general anticipation is that Facebook’s new product will be dependent on a smartphone, something like Snap’s Spectacles or Amazon’s Echo Frames. What we are sure of is that these smart glasses will be a product of “Project Aria” of Facebook Reality Labs, which is basically a design lab dedicated to AR.
As Zuckerberg puts it, Project Aria and this launch of smart glasses is a “journey towards full augmented reality glasses in the future” – with metaverse and everything- and there’s no doubt that when the time comes Facebook will market one of the most groundbreaking advanced products. For now, we will just wait and see what Facebook is going to launch sometime in 2021.
Snap – Spectacles AR (4th Generation)
Snap has unveiled the fourth generation of Spectacles and introduced the true AR experience for the first time. These new Snapchat Spectacles are a big jump forward from the previous models, which essentially just recorded videos in a Snapchat-friendly format and didn’t do anything holographic. These new AR glasses project virtual images into the world directly in front of the wearer. But like those earlier smart glasses, they are only intended for creators of the Snapchat Lenses platform. AR Spectacles are a very useful device to create incentives for designers to create AR lenses. What Snap tries to achieve by developing these glasses is to explore the undiscovered ways AR can be implemented in art as well as business.
Evan Speilberg, Snap’s CEO was asked what his favorite lens is and his answer was a poetry effect, one that makes words appear in front of your eyes as you walk around the real world. “This may sound a little esoteric, but the way the words relate to the physical space that you’re in, and bring a totally different dimension to the poem—I thought that was interesting when you look at the future of creativity,” Spiegel says.
The new Spectacles are not produced to be a competitor product to other AR glasses on the market. We can understand it from its not so remarkable features like weight and field of view. It’s just the beginning of a groundbreaking product with a huge promise to the creator’s world.
“Our vision was to create a device that’s expressive, thought-provoking, and maintains a lightweight sunglasses form factor”Lauryn Morris, Product Strategy Manager at Snap
Microsoft – HoloLens 2
After the first version was released in 2015, Hololens 2 evolved to be one of the most equipped and qualified augmented reality glasses in the market. A quick reminder: HoloLens is designed for businesses, not for individual consumers, so it’s nothing like the smart glasses we’ve talked about thus far. It creates a much more immersive environment for the user as it’s targeted at enterprise customers.
The biggest takeaway from HoloLens is how much it decreases the learning curves, or how smoother the operations get by using them. It doesn’t only bring an augmented layer to your environment, it also defies the physical limitations connecting you with other colleagues across locations with the Dynamic 365 Remote Assist technology. Having a supervisor or a colleague just near you to work collaboratively is not a must anymore. The glasses are designed to provide the best and most practical experience to its user, for people who work with their hands and find it difficult to integrate a computer or smartphone into their daily work.
In manufacturing, healthcare, and education HoloLens proved to improve many important metrics. Lockheed Martin increased the assembly process efficiency by 90% and Imperial College NHS Trust decreased the ward times by 30%. The headset is custom, aligned with the user’s eye level so that users can work on long tasks hands-free and comfortably. It’s immersive with industry-leading resolutions in holograms, instinctual in a way that users can navigate through with natural hand moves like touch, drag and grasp or voice commands. It’s untethered thanks to its self-contained computer with Wi-Fi connectivity.
Magic Leap One
Magic Leap is another company putting efforts into augmented reality glasses to enhance the business operations of enterprises. Their first headset Magic Leap One was developed to enable innovation, improve the outputs and increase the return on investment. Similar to what Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens use, the Leap One glasses can overlay digital 3D graphics onto your view of the real world via a headset with transparent lenses.
The Magic Leap One is a three-piece system that includes a headset called “Lightwear”, a small wearable computer called the “Lightpack”, and a handheld controller. Part of the comfort factor is its relative lightness since the bulkiest electronics are offloaded into the Lightpack. It has a functional operating system and starting app suite as well as a web browser called Helio, a “social suite” with a holographic chat system, an app store called Magic Leap World, an image gallery, and a system for pinning and watching virtual screens.
Like every other mixed reality company, Magic Leap eventually wants to make a normal-looking pair of glasses that can be worn everywhere by everyone. For now, the headset is only guaranteed to work indoors, and it includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas, but no mobile data options.
So What’s Next?
Nreal, Third Eye, Apple, Epson, Lenovo, Google, and many more are progressively continuing their developments of augmented reality and smart glasses. As more and more brands are jumping on this smartglasses trend, companies are realizing the importance of product digitization and 3D visualization. You can get in touch with us and learn more about how ART Labs can help you succeed in the metaverse and bring your products to life in 3D.