The mass adoption of Smart AR (augmented reality) glasses has not happened yet, and if some experts are right in their predictions, it could still be 5 years or more before a statistically significant number of people start to buy into this technology. However, it seems safe to assume that it won’t be too much longer before futuristic tech glasses become a common sight in Australia and other countries around the world. Factors such as an increase in remote working could accelerate the adoption of AR glasses in coming years, and if technology companies are able to lower their prices, this is sure to help as well.
AR stands for augmented reality — so AR glasses are glasses that allow you to see the physical world around you, with additional data or images superimposed on top of it. In this way, they augment what you can already see.
They are not the same as virtual reality glasses (VR glasses), which do not allow you to see the physical world around you. When you put on a pair of VR glasses or goggles, all you can see is a computer-generated environment. The software may allow you to interact with the objects and locations you can see, but it will all be in a virtual reality.
In addition to VR and AR glasses, we should also mention mixed reality (MR) glasses. Mixed reality technology is similar to augmented reality technology, but it differs in one important way. In a mixed reality environment, you have the option to interact with the virtual elements that appear. You might be able to move them using hand gestures and, when you walk towards them, they will appear to move closer to you.
Now we know what AR glasses are, we can take a look at some of the existing augmented reality or augmented world glasses currently available.
Some people refer to AR glasses as POV glasses, because they can transmit a live feed of the wearer’s point of view (POV) to other people or computers on a network. Strictly speaking, not all POV glasses can be considered as AR glasses — but whichever name you prefer, here are some of the most interesting models currently available:
1. Google Glass
As these glasses only feature a floating screen in the top-right corner of your field of vision, they cannot really be considered AR glasses. They have no ability to superimpose virtual elements on your view of the world at large. However, we include them in our look at this technology as they are one of the best known futuristic tech glasses to be developed so far, and future smart glasses from Google may well build on the technology they employ. With the latest version, Google moved their focus from the consumer market to the business market, resulting in the Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2.
By utilising the small screen at the top right of the glasses, apps developed for Google Glass can provide workers with relevant information when they are performing tasks for which they need to concentrate fully. This enables them to complete these tasks without having to look away to find any facts and figures they may need.
The nature of Google Glass glasses means they are unlikely to change your worldview in their current format. However, they do have the potential to help workers in commercial environments to be more productive. And in the future, we may see Google augmented reality glasses that offer a true AR experience.
2. Microsoft HoloLens 2
The HoloLens 2 from Microsoft is also primarily aimed at the enterprise market. Unlike Google Glass, the HoloLens 2 can deliver a full AR experience and includes mixed reality technology. HoloLens wearers can see the world around them, with augmented reality images overlaid, which they can then move with their hands in the same way they would move physical objects in the real world.
The HoloLens has been used by the Department of Defense and NASA in the USA, firmly establishing itself as a serious contender in the enterprise market for AR glasses. These futuristic visor glasses were used by NASA technicians to complete the assembly of the Orion crew capsule in record time and have been used in medical and construction applications too.
Although the HoloLens 2 is targeted at enterprise users, there are a number of entertaining apps available for it, including Graffiti 3D, HoloTour and Algorithmic Nature. These apps use mixed reality, augmented reality and virtual reality technology, providing users with new ways in which to see the world around them and the ability to interact with virtual elements that are superimposed on their view.
3. Nreal Light glasses
One of the most ergonomically designed smart glasses to become available in 2021, Nreal Light glasses are styled to look like fashionable sunglasses and can provide wearers with an immersive AR/MR experience. Apps that are currently available for these glasses include Magician Mystery, with a stationary playing field that you can examine by moving your head from right to left, and Ghost Hunter, which features ghosts and demons rushing towards you as you move your body and head in different directions.
Despite the good build quality and graphics, Nreal light glasses have received mixed reviews so far, mainly due to the lack of truly interesting apps available at the moment. As more apps become available in the future, they may become more popular and help people around the world to discover how AR technology can change their view of the world they live in.
4. Vuzix Blade
The option to choose custom lenses for the Vuzix Blade is exciting news for people who have been waiting for futuristic prescription glasses to become readily available. If you have wanted to try AR glasses in the past but have been hesitant to do so because you rely on prescription lenses to see clearly, these glasses could be well worth checking out. The latest model is called the Vuzix Blade Upgraded and comes with voice control for a totally handsfree experience.
In addition to prescription lenses, the Vuzix Blade Upgraded headset can be fitted with sunglass lenses or PPE lenses for use in industrial environments. Whether you use them to make video calls to friends and colleagues or to control and view footage from a DJI drone, these smart glasses have the potential to change the way you accomplish certain tasks and could well make you look at the world in a new way.
5. Magic Leap One
This is another entrant in the AR market that can be fitted with custom prescription lenses. While it is unlikely that all eyeglasses of the future will look like the Magic Leap One, their unique styling gives us one idea of the type of eyewear that short-sighted people might be wearing daily in 10 or twenty years. The Magic Leap One comes with a computing unit called a Lightbox, to which the glasses must be connected. Although it makes them a little less portable than some other designs on the market, it does provide them with the processing power required to deliver a powerful AR experience. The glasses also feature integral stereo speakers, ensuring highquality sound during video calls and an immersive audio experience when using apps for entertainment purposes.
The Magic Leap One glasses are mainly targeting enterprise users but there are a number of creative AR apps and games available that may attract individuals to consider these smart glasses too. One of these, the Madefire MR app, is a digital comic reading platform that really allows you to step into the pages of your favourite titles. It might not change your world perspective — but it could certainly change the way you view comics in the future.
6. Everysight Raptor
This AR headset is designed specifically for keen cyclists. It projects a variety of data onto the lenses in real-time, allowing you to monitor your speed, heart rate and other relevant performance metrics, without having to take your eyes off the road ahead. If you are not a cyclist, then these will probably not be the glasses of the future for you. But if you regularly ride, you could find them an invaluable aid that makes your hobby safer and more enjoyable.
The Everyesight Raptor also features a frontfacing HD camera, which you can use to record your rides and relive them at your leisure. This may not be an appealing feature if you only ever use a bike on your daily commute but if you travel to picturesque locations for cycling holidays, it’s a great way to revisit all the sights and sounds you experienced once you get home.
7. Vuzix Labs Smart Swim
In common with the Raptor headset from Eyesight, the Smart Swim from Vuzix is designed to meet the needs of a very specific group of people: swimmers. The Smart Swim displays performance metrics on a colour screen in front of your eyes as you swim, including time elapsed and pace. You can track every lap, flip and turn with this device, enabling you to monitor your workouts more accurately than ever before. With built-in Wi-Fi, you can also use the Smart Swim to watch YouTube videos and downloaded content while you swim, helping to alleviate boredom during extended workouts. Waterproof Bluetooth earphones are supplied in the box, and, as you would expect, the main unit itself is also fully waterproof.
8. Lenovo Star Wars™: Jedi Challenges
Primarily designed for gamers rather than for professional use, Lenovo Star Wars™: Jedi Challenges allows you to enjoy AR lightsaber battles in any location, complete complex quests and even battle friends in multiplayer games. Seeing Darth Vader swinging a lightsaber at you in your living room is sure to make you think twice about what else may be lurking behind the sofa!
There are many other exciting AR headsets available, demonstrating what the future of eyeglasses and augmented reality technology may look like. So whether you are looking for a headset that allows you to share a virtual POV with eyeglasses, such as Google Glass POV glasses, or smart AR glasses you can use for home entertainment and gaming purposes, you’re likely to be spoilt for choice in the very near future.