If you’ve ever felt the need for a heads-up display for life, you’ve probably looked into augmented reality (AR) eyewear. These revolutionary devices can render an image in your vision, without impeding your view of the physical world. Thus, they are perfect for the workplace, sports, or just a night on the town. Smart glasses date back to the 90s, with the first iteration of the EyeTap device. However, the first modern augmented reality glasses did not come around until 2012, with Canon’s Mixed Reality system. However, this product was meant for professional use only – the cost for the entire system was $125,000, and it required $25,000 in annual maintenance.
In 2013, Google released the Google Glass to some early adopters. It was priced much more affordably – about $1500 – and become available to the general public by 2014. This device had a camera attached to it. It was also quite recognizable – and also quite controversial due to concerns with the privacy and safety of others. Since Google Glass first came out, many competitors have emerged in the consumer AR eyewear market. As the market evolves, more and more new concepts enter the scene. If you want to learn about some of the most innovative companies making strides in the industry, check out our article on five companies leading the way in AR eyewear.
The Vuzix Corporation has already brought a revolution to the smart eyewear industry. Their Vuzix Blade smart glasses were the first to provide full-time information overlays that were an effective replacement for viewing a smartphone. Though they still require an iOS or Android smartphone for processing power, you are able to just leave it in your pocket and only interface with the glasses.
The Vuzix Blade is truly a revolutionary pair of glasses. They almost look like regular glasses, only distinguishable by the side-mounted touchpad. They also offer a haptic vibration alert system, an 8- megapixel video camera capable of capturing 1080p video, and a full-color DLP display. There are myriad other features that the Vuzix Corporation has included in the Blade – but either way, it shows that this company is sure to get a solid footing in the AR eyewear market.
Atheer Labs is another leader in the augmented reality scene. They have developed their own proprietary system called the AiR – Augmented interactive Reality. Their system makes use of head motions, voice controls, and gestures for control. It is capable of rendering a three-dimensional object in your field of vision, which can be maneuvered and manipulated as if it were real.
The eyewear from Atheer Labs has mostly been developed for usage by engineers and other workers who need plans, three-dimensional models, and other interactive overlays for their work. While these are not slick, low-profile smart glasses, they are far more powerful and are a standalone technology. It is possible that as time goes on, we may see a consumer-oriented model come from Atheer. However, for now it stands out as one of the most promising developers for the hands-on workers market.
The electronics and hardware manufacturer, Intel, elected to enter the smart glasses scene recently, introducing their Vaunt model. This pair is virtually indistinguishable from a regular pair of glasses. There is no camera on the device. Instead, it uses an extremely low-grade, harmless laser to project an image directly onto your retina. It is only visible when you look slightly downward.
These low-key glasses are perfect for wearing all day. They weigh under 50 grams and have perfect weight distribution. Each pair will also be custom-fitted for the user’s pupillary distance, ensuring that it will always be comfortable to view your display. It will also be AI controlled, providing the most relevant information for the moment (e.g. a shopping list, flight information, birthday reminders if you’re on the phone with someone). Intel’s innovation and interesting new concept mark them as a leader in the rising AR eyewear industry.
Solos Wearables has a unique, athlete-oriented approach to AR eyewear with their model of smart glasses. They include heads-up displays and simple accessibility, allowing their users to access useful data. It is also designed to be worn during sports or athletic performance, and thus was designed to be nonintrusive. They have the smallest module pane in the world, measuring at about 4mm in height (about the size of a human pupil).
These glasses also have audio technology, using a stereo speaker system with ambient monitoring. Call notifications, performance cues, and text message alerts will also be broadcast through this system, over your music (if you so choose). Their proprietary mobile app is great for data visualization and customization and can be used with iOS or Android. All of these innovative, athlete-friendly features make Solos Wearables the leaders in their niche of smart eyeglasses.
This company was founded in 2012 in a dorm at Columbia University. They created their very first prototype that very year, including hand movement tracking. Their most recent model provides the most immersive AR experience available today. Including a 90-degree field of view and 3D holograms, the Meta 2 allows you to manipulate rendered objects in real time with hand motions.
The visuals that this smart eyewear overlays on the environment are photorealistic. Plus, some crazy new technology has been implemented in the Meta 2 called Ultrahaptics. Often hailed as the next step in human-machine interfacing, it uses ultrasound to create actual sensations. The user will be able to feel holograms beneath their fingertips. Meta is definitely a leader in the industry. In twenty years, we could see this type of technology implemented in many different devices, leading to an unprecedented connection between man and machine.