AR Smart Glasses

AR Smart Glasses

AR smart glasses augment the real world with virtual elements. They’re different from VR headsets, which completely immerse you in a virtual world.

Nreal’s specs work a little like a surrogate TV, mirroring your phone screen onto the glasses. They also work with a couple of media streaming apps and games.

1. Vuzix Blade

The Vuzix Blade is an augmented reality smart glasses designed for enterprise and industrial applications. It uses a waveguide optic to display digital work instructions over the real world, making it safer than traditional computer monitors and smartphones for remote workers.

Its lightweight design makes it comfortable to wear for long periods of time and its 720p/8MP camera captures video that can be displayed directly on the Blade interface or sent to a companion app for sharing. It has motion sensors to maintain the image and haptic motors for vibrating alerts, while noise-cancelling microphones allow for voice control.

An IPS LCD display has a high resolution with distinct lines and bright colors, which makes reading texts and viewing images easy on the eyes. It also supports spatial audio, which adds a 3D-like effect to videos and games played on the device. Its UI is simple and intuitive with an icon for each app at the top of the screen, and menu options appear as white text on a green background. Its directional touchpad and voice control are straightforward and easy to use, though we found the former sometimes unresponsive.

The Vuzix Blade runs on Android 5.0 ar smart glasses Lollipop and includes Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, with a quad-core ARM processor under the hood. A USB port provides power and a microSD card slot accepts up to 64GB of storage.

2. North Focals

Focals are the best-looking smart glasses available. They look, fit and work like regular glasses, with a stealthy augmented reality display only the wearer can see. They also let you hide incoming notifications with a customizable blink and emojis.

North, which makes the Focals, is a Canadian manufacturer (formerly Thalmic Labs). Its AR headsets aim to reduce the alienating computer-on-your-face look of most other devices with a design that mimics sunglasses. The company is working to make its AR glasses more affordable, too — the new second-generation Focals are priced at just $599 with prescription lenses.

A tap on the Loop controller (which looks like a standard sunglasses frame) wakes up the Focals, which then automatically connect to your smartphone. Once the pair is connected, you can use voice commands and tap to perform other tasks. For example, a single tap records video and a double tap snaps a picture. The Focals can also show notifications from your phone, read your texts aloud and provide information on the weather.

A few weeks after launch, North began adding more features to the Focals. These updates included the ability to view presentation slides, access commuting information with live public transit data and control different media apps remotely. However, the Focals still feel like a work in progress. Some of these new features are marked as ‘experiments,’ meaning the company is soliciting feedback from users to refine and improve them.

3. Lenovo ThinkReality A3

Lenovo’s ThinkReality A3 is designed for multiple use cases, from viewing remote multimedia content on PCs to enhancing collaboration and accessing ar smart glasses mobile apps in the field. The A3 is lightweight at 130 g and comfortable, with tool-free modularity for a customized fit. Various nosepieces and ear horn extensions ensure that the headset fits all head sizes, while interchangeable front covers suit different environments from tinted cosmetic lenses to industrial-compliant safety shields. Prescription lenses mount on the nosepiece for a single assembly that’s easy to swap out when another user wears them.

The A3s tether to select Motorola smartphones or PCs (depending on system resources) to enable augmented reality features such as remote viewing for experts and AR-assisted workflows for business users. They feature a 1080p stereoscopic display and support up to five virtual displays, plus an 8MP RGB camera for image and object recognition. They also have a touchpad on the arms for interacting with visuals and voice commands, and HDCP so they can playback protected video.

Although the A3s aren’t currently available for sale, they provide a glimpse into future AR technology. The Industrial Edition version features a more durable frame and tethers to several Motorola smartphone models for working in complex, work-intensive environments. The A3 AR glasses can create a personalized workspace anywhere—from a private screen in a coffee shop to an immersive schematic or guided workflow on the factory floor.

4. Google Glass Explorer Edition

Google Glass is still in production, and this latest model — called Explorer Edition 2.0 — improves upon its predecessor with better RAM, a larger display and a more durable frame design. Its battery can also last longer, and it now has an app that lets users pair it with smartphones for voice activation (though it won’t work as a hands-free headset).

A small LED near the camera illuminates when the device is recording or taking pictures, which helps people around you know it’s in use. A single tap records up to 30 seconds of video, and a quick press and hold will take a photo. Like a modern smartphone, the Glass interface is mostly screen-based with a touch plate positioned on the right frame. Swipe the touch plate forward or backward to advance through screens, with email, messages and notifications showing up in chronological order.

Its augmented reality features include a “home decor” mode that uses icons (which the user can’t see) to identify real-world objects, such as a sofa or coffee table. A navigation mode provides turn-by-turn directions, and a search feature looks up businesses by name or category. Its low points are its lack of labels on emails and text messages, as well as the fact that you can’t start a new message thread with a contact, only reply to one.

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