AR glasses are what comes after the smartphone


While the smartphone rules today’s tech world as the primary computing device, the next big hardware platform is expected to be a version of augmented reality glasses.

The panorama: Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Google are pursuing this vision, and many pieces are beginning to fit together. But the holy grail of an affordable computer packed into something not much bulkier than a standard pair of glasses will likely be a few years away.

How does it work: These glasses allow users to see what is in front of them, but with superimposed digital information, such as map addresses, contact information and messages. Cameras and microphones allow images and sounds to be captured and allow for different types of input, and speech is likely to play a key role.

Who is involved: Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have shown interest and invested heavily in the underlying technologies. Analysts are also expecting phone makers like Samsung and PC makers like Lenovo to get in on the act.

be smart: If you look closely, you can see some of the key underlying technologies that are already being developed and tested with the naked eye.

  • Facebook plans to introduce smart glasses later this year, designed in partnership with Ray-Ban maker Luxottica. These glasses – a more advanced twist on the niche glasses that Snap has been selling – are unlikely to offer full capabilities, but rather serve as a stepping stone, both in terms of technology and to help people get used to such devices in the future. their lives.
  • Oculus from Facebook The unit has primarily focused on virtual reality rather than augmented reality, but there is a lot of crossover between the two. Oculus Quest 2 and other virtual reality headsets can deliver AR by using cameras to view the outside world.
  • Microsoft It already sells Hololens, which packs the power of a Windows 10 computer into a headset, though it’s still too bulky and expensive to appeal to consumers. Microsoft has made it available to developers and some enterprise customers, and is also working with the US Army.
  • Google glassThe first device in this category to attract general attention, it failed as a consumer product, but a slightly updated version is still being sold to businesses.
  • Apple has shared some details, but has been making a lot of moves, including a recent move by executive Dan Riccio, purportedly to direct Apple’s VR / AR efforts. According to reports from Bloomberg and The Information, Apple is preparing a virtual reality headset that would also use cameras to view the real world. The device, which can cost around $ 3,000 and arrive next year, could serve as an opportunity for both high-end consumers and developers to start testing the technology that would make fully developed AR glasses work.
  • Both Apple AirPods and Apple Watch they represent efforts toward miniaturization of technology and ways to test individual components, such as the spatial audio feature included with the latest AirPods Pro. Several companies hope to solve some of the tough technical challenges of AR glasses by dividing computing work between multiple devices. Qualcomm, among others, aims to offload some of the glasses processing needs onto users’ smartphones.
  • Niantic, creator of Pokémon Go has a partnership with Qualcomm and has also been busy mapping the real world and developing the kinds of augmented reality experiences consumers will want.

Yes, but: The technical hurdles are many, especially if the lens is really something as light and inconspicuous as glasses.

  • Miniaturization: While many of the computing pieces are in place for such glasses, including small cameras, microphones, and processors, the components are still not small enough to have something that is full-featured and lightweight.
  • Battery duration: Just like you want your smartphone to last all day, you wish you could have your smart glasses working wherever you go. Many of today’s headsets, both virtual reality and augmented reality, only last a couple of hours between charges.
  • Hot: Today’s processor chips are more energy efficient than ever, but they still give off heat when they’re working hard, and users won’t appreciate it when the device is resting on their face.
  • Display: Many of today’s AR glasses have only a limited field of view, rather than the ideal experience of being able to place computer images anywhere the eye can see. Devices also have difficulty providing a light source bright enough so that the projected information can be easily seen in sunlight.
  • Cost: Putting all the necessary technology in one device, even with the above limitations, adds up to a product that costs several thousand dollars.

“The challenge is to make the technology more energy efficient so that it can be used for a longer period of time, without affecting the form factor,” Qualcomm Vice President Hugo Swart told Axios. “AR glasses need to be smaller, lighter and have a longer battery life. Qualcomm is committed to making AR glasses the next big thing.”

Even harder than technical challenges it’s the social dilemmas of new technology, Facebook Reality Labs director Andrew Bosworth told Axios.

“How does this all fit into a comfortable, socially acceptable form factor that people feel fits the way they want to express themselves? And then of course you have to consider people who don’t have glasses. How does it affect them? this? How do you resolve their discomfort? How do you bridge privacy concerns with cameras and microphones always on? “

– Andrew Bosworth of Facebook, to Axios

That’s part of the reason Facebook has launched Project Aria, an effort to gauge social reaction to smart glasses that have cameras and microphones always on.

Our thought bubble: Even if users can be persuaded to trust that their glasses are not spying on friends and family or recording their private conversations, the new devices will demand new standards for every imaginable social situation.

Retrospective scene: These questions arose when Google first introduced Project Glass in 2012.

  • Part of what condemned the pioneering smart glasses as a wearable consumer device, beyond immature technology, was that they were widely viewed as creepy and intrusive. (Remember this?)

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