Best AR Glasses to Look Out for in 2023 and Beyond
Augmented reality glasses and headsets have come a long way in recent years. While we're still rather far away from AR glasses that would pack great power enclosed in ordinary spectacles, the devices are getting more and more sophisticated. Let's take a closer look at the best AR glasses and headsets currently available, breaking down their key features and capabilities.
By 2028, the AR market is expected to cross $97 billion. With Apple’s rumored AR glasses (headset more likely) slated to launch in 2023, we’re seeing an increased interest in augmented reality glasses by global tech players. The arms race in the AR tech scene is very much on.
Best AR Glasses to Look Out for in 2023 and Beyond
AR glasses are an electronic device designed like everyday eyewear that adds a layer of digital information to the real world. In short, AR glasses overlay your vision with contextually accurate information such as messages, navigation, heart rate, and other custom data fields that you have set up on your smartphone or watch.
The added layer of visual information serves to induce a feeling of immersion that stretches beyond the real world. That’s why many metaverse pundits believe fully immersive AR glasses are one of the prerequisites for the metaverse to become the new face of the connected world. That said, we're still in the rathery bulky AR headsets era, not lightweight glasses, and even they don't yet deliver that smooth and visually stunning experience users expect.
And while we’re yet to experience true augmented reality smart glasses, over the years, many companies took their jabs at building the technology. Most of those devices rely on HUD (heads-up display) technology that doesn't render a 3D image within your vision but simply displays content on the lens.
But even this approach combined with sleek design can turn AR glasses into functional devices with many business applications.
Apple Glasses will look like regular glasses (with a built-in display) that users can control using gestures. The prototype looks like high-end luxury sunglasses with a thick but elegant frame.
According to a Taiwanese publication, DigiTimes, Apple has already entered the second development phase, but it might take a few more years for the public release. Multiple sources on the internet have floated many rumored details and specs of Apple Glasses:
Comes with plastic or metal frames
Truevision display on both lenses
Gesture-controlled commands in sync with Apple Watch
According to Zuckerberg, Meta Glasses will redefine our relationship with technology and act as a connective tissue.
Codenamed Project Nazare, the Meta Glasses will offer a full-blown AR experience with 3D graphics and a sleek design. The design is rumored to be similar to Clark Kent’s glasses.
Meta’s early attempts at launching its own version of AR glasses — Ray Ban Stories in collaboration with Ray Ban — have seen a lukewarm response. But the new version of Meta’s AR Glasses claims to offer a completely different experience than other AR glasses. It's expected that the Meta Glasses will offer the following features, based on Zuckerberg's keynote in Oct 2021:
Wide field of view with AR overlay to show information widgets
Sleek and stylish form factor with an expected thickness of 5mm or less
Hologram display with built-in projectors, batteries, and multiple sensors
Radio, speakers, and cameras to provide an immersive experience
Battery life of up to 4 hours
The first generation of Meta Glasses is rumored to launch in 2025 (as smart glasses initially), but without offering a truly immersive experience, might attract little attention among AR enthusiasts. Subsequent launches and a growing sophistication of devices that promise a full AR experience have a launch schedule for 2027.
Tentative release date: 2025
Price: More than $299
Google Glass 2 Enterprise Edition — Built for Businesses
Google has been an experienced player in the AR game, with the first release of Google Glass its first release in 2013. Google Glass Enterprise Edition is an improved, lightweight version of smart glasses with incredible features to help businesses use AR for various applications.
Google Glass has a voice-controlled interface that allows users to work hands-free inside factories. Companies like DHL and Boeing have reported an increase in operational productivity after equipping their workforce with Google Glass. There are many applications for Google Glass and augmented reality in general, e.g, in manufacturing, logistics.
Here are some of the features and specifications of Google Glass 2 Enterprise:
32 GB internal storage
Qualcomm XR1 process
640 pixel x 360 pixel RGB display
8 hours of battery life
Blink and wink sensor
Google Glass helps workers utilize AR to operate machinery, follow instructions, complete technical training, and collaborate with team members without using a tablet or computer. Google Glass has also been used in the healthcare segment to livestream patient visits, send reports directly for transcription, and conduct tele-consultations.
In 2021, Snap announced the 4th generation Spectacles glasses, the first to include a display for real-time augmented reality (AR). The glasses are not yet available for sale, as Snap is positioning them as a development kit for creators to experiment with building AR experiences.
The glasses have a form-over-function approach, offering a lightweight design that consumers would find reasonable, even if some capabilities are pared down. The glasses have a 26.3° diagonal field-of-view, which is notably small, and a 30-minute battery life, making them feel more like a dedicated-use device. The battery case can hold up to four charges, offsetting the need to control battery life.
It’s worth noting that Snap Spectacles 4 is a considerable upgrade from the previous version, Snap Spectacles 3, which was met with only a lukewarm response.
Vuzix Blade Upgraded — Enterprise AR Companion
Vuzix Blade 2 is a commercial-grade AR smart glasses with several enterprise AR applications. It is one of the only AR glasses on the list that offers ANSI Z87.1 protection for eyes and is suitable for industrial AR applications at hazardous locations and factories.
Vuzix Blade smart glasses have advanced waveguard optics that overlay digital information on real-world objects like machinery, equipment, or products. Vuzix Blade 2 is a powerful solution to help businesses build a connected workforce.
The smart glasses come with the following specs:
Vibrant color display
Quad Core ARM CPU
8 MP camera with autofocus
8GB internal storage
Android 11 operating system
microSD expansion slot
Full UV protection lenses
WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity
Head tracking, touchpad and full voice control
The smart glasses support mixed reality, HD photography and video streaming. In an industrial environment, enterprises can support workers by transmitting instructions, data, and software in real-time to boost operational efficiency.
At 2023 MWC, Xiaomi launched its first wireless augmented reality (AR) smart glasses, the Wireless AR Glass Discovery Edition. The device, which weighs 126g, includes a lightweight frame made of carbon fiber and magnesium-lithium alloys, a "retina-level" electrochromic adaptive display, lighting adjustment, Snapdragon Spaces tethering and hand tracking capabilities.
Xiaomi's smart glasses interact with various social media apps such as TikTok and YouTube and also integrate with smart home functions. The smart glasses also boast micro gesture controls, leading to enhanced human-computer interfacing (HCI) capabilities.
Oppo Air Glass 2
Oppo had people intrigued at the 2023 MWC with the success of their first smart glasses from 2022. The glasses have a built-in battery, display, and other technologies, and they felt like a normal pair of glasses on the face. Users can browse a menu of features, including weather, calendar, teleprompter, maps, and translation using swipe and tap gestures.
The glasses are still at the concept stage, but Oppo has a history of taking time to develop products, with the Oppo Find N taking six iterations over four years before going to market. It remains to be seen when the glasses will become a consumer product.
ThinkReality A3 by Lenovo — The Hybrid AR Glasses
ThinkReality A3 by Lenovo is a pair of hybrid glasses with an interesting approach to the AR game. Instead of housing all processing and other capabilities, it connects to handheld devices, e.g., smartphone. This approach helps keep the weight of the device low and ensure it has all the computing power for immersive display of visuals.
ThinkReality A3 is a corded AR device that tethers to Lenovo laptops or Motorola mobile phones. But that doesn't make it restrictive at all. Instead, the strategically placed connector and soft clip make it easy to use and reduce the glasses' bulkiness.
The A3 glasses are sleeker than HoloLens and Google Glass and come with two 1080p displays, wide-angle cameras, and an XR1 Qualcomm processor. Here are more specs and features:
Corded architecture that connects to mobile phones and/or laptops
Qualcomm XR-1 Smart Viewer Processor
Display resolution of 1080p per eye with 200 nits brightness
8MP RGB camera
You can connect the device to a laptop or smartphone and try scenario-specific apps. On the laptop, the device gives a user an option to access secure assets and be a part of virtual workspaces. Enterprises can let their teams work from anywhere with an added layer of privacy, even when working on-the-go.
Released in: Dec 2021
Price: USD 1499.99
Microsoft Hololens 2 — Unlocking AR Possibilities for Enterprise
While not necessarily glasses, Microsoft Hololens 2 is an upgraded version of Microsoft's flagship smart mixed-reality headset and is a powerful device with several interesting industrial applications. Primarily designed for the enterprise, Hololens 2 has an ergonomic design, making it comfortable for users to wear.
Hololens 2 supports spatial mapping and allows natural interactions using hand gestures. It also supports spatial sound, eliminating the chances of isolation from the natural environment.
Hololens 2 helps enterprises conduct training, visualize products, and improve productivity through a mix of AI, computer vision, and augmented reality. Here are some technical specs and features:
Transparent lenses with 8 MP HD camera and microphone for voice commands
2K display that projects overlay for mixed reality experience and interactions with 3D models and holographs
Eye and hand movement tracking
4GB RAM, 64 GB storage, and Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 processor
WiFi, BlueTooth, and Type-C connectivity
2-3 hours of battery life
Microsoft Hololens 2 has a wide field of view, robust gesture control features, and an app ecosystem supported by Microsoft Unity. This opens up gates for unique applications in logistics, manufacturing, and assembly line functions.
Released in: 2019 Priced at: $3500
Magic Leap 2 — Enterprise Immersion
Magic Leap 2 is an augmented reality headset that features a lightweight and comfortable design. ML 2 includes features such as eye tracking, hand tracking, and 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) tracking, which allow users to interact with digital objects in a more natural and intuitive way. The device also includes advanced optics, which provide high resolution and clarity. With a relatively wide field of view, the sense of immersion is enhanced.
The headset is designed for a range of enterprise applications, e.g., engineering to visualize and manipulate 3D models of complex systems. Magic Leap 2 also has the potential to revolutionize the way medical professionals train. The device can be used to create realistic medical simulations, allowing students to practice surgical procedures and develop treatment plans in a safe and controlled environment. Magic Leap 2 can help create visualizations of complex medical data, such as CT scans and MRIs, which surgeons can use to plan how to best operate.
Here are some of Magic Leap 2 specifications:
70° diagonal field-of-view (FOV)
16GB LPDDR5 RAM
range of operation: 37 cm to infinity
approx. 3.5hrs battery life
1440 x 1760 pixel resolution display
Released in: 2022 Priced at: $3299
Heads-Up Display Glasses
While not nearly as immersive as full AR glasses, smart glasses with HUD technology give users an added layer of information projected on the lenses. Augmented reality glasses use a different type of content-projecting technology.
More notable HUD glasses are:
Engo Eyewear 2
Snap Spectacles 3
Other Types of Smart Glasses
On top of smart glasses that display visual content, you also have gadgets like Bluetooth audio sunglasses from Bose or Amazon Echo Frames you can connect to a smartphone to amplify your Alexa assistant experience.
There's also Ray-Ban Stories created in cooperation with Facebook. The glasses can record videos and shoot pictures on top of playing music.
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