Following the commercial success of Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality headset, companies are now fighting to develop the first consumer-focused augmented reality (AR) glasses.
AR has been commonplace in consumer technology for some time, especially popular with Instagram and Snapchat filters on smartphones.
However, some companies are now pursuing a sci-fi vision of Tony Stark’s fictional Iron Man sunglasses.
There are already several products on the market that combine your computer screen with reality.
Instead of placing you in the third dimension like a VR headset, AR imposes the real world with a user interface and other graphics on transparent lenses, and feels and captures the world around you.
So far, AR headsets in the UK have been aimed at corporate use with relatively high prices and unfashionable designs.
Meta became the first company in the UK to release a pair of glasses with on-board cameras when it teamed up last year with Ray-Ban, which was aimed at the consumer retail market.
People who wear them can listen to music, take photos and videos with the Ray-Ban Stories pair, which are automatically transferred to your smartphone.
The story is primarily designed to create content and reflects nothing on the user’s lenses.
EE is working with Nreal for AR points
However, this week Nreal together with the mobile phone operator EE released a pair of AR glasses designed for content consumption.
A headset that connects to your Android smartphone via a USBC cable translates your phone’s display to a 201-inch screen on your lenses, wherever you are.
People who wear them can either display their phone screen directly on their glasses, or use an operating system that allows you to open and resize multiple windows at once, just like on a computer.
The user can choose to view the display on clear lenses or apply a plastic dimming screen to create a more cinematic experience.
The glasses function in much the same way as a TV screen or a second monitor, except that you carry the TV in an unobtrusive case in your backpack.
Nreal Air glasses also allow you to play video games the size of iMAX on the go.
By connecting to the widely advertised 5G EE high-speed network, using the Xbox Cloud Streaming Game or PlayStation’s Remote Play, the user can play on their console anywhere they can get a signal.
A new chapter for consumers
The Air headset means a new chapter in consumer entertainment.
It costs £ 399 (less than half of its commercially oriented counterparts), and EE expects that there will be no production or delivery delays in its deployment.
Danny Marshall, head of the device partnership at EE, told Sky News: “[Nreal] in fact, they are very selective about the markets where they can buy their products to make sure they can focus supply … what we need to do very quickly is understand demand – it’s more difficult than the availability of components. “
He noted that many people still do not know that their Instagram filter provides AR, and that the company does not know how long it will take for the widespread use of wearable technology.
So, the next technological step of the company will be to combine Ray-Ban Stories cameras with Nreal 1080p display.
“If you look broadly, most of the technology exists … supplemented information displays are already available, it’s more about customer acceptance.
“Most of the technology is there, just to make it smaller, lighter, easier to carry – the battery is another big one, the rest is all there.”
AR test glasses in London
And Meta tends to agree.
Meta has announced that it has begun testing its own augmented reality glasses in London, which will capture video and audio as well as track eye movements.
In an interview with Sky News, Jason Rubin, vice president of Metaverse Content at Meta, explained what benefits Facebook developers see in AR.
“Augmented reality is great if you’re doing something in real life, so I could use augmented reality while walking down the street because I see cars and other people and at the same time get information just like I get off the phone today but much more efficient way.
“The perfect device would do both [AR and VR] and would simply switch to full immersion or skip things depending on what makes sense at any given time – and Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed that this is happening in Cumbria. “
Although Meta says this model is not a prototype and will never hit the market, the technology exists.
Now it is only a matter of time before it can be miniaturized and produced on a scale and at a price that people will buy.
Real life is “number one”
Surprisingly, Mr Rubin further said he “would be better off staying in the room with [his manager] in real life it is number one. If I can’t be with him in the room, I’d better be in cyberspace with him in VR ”.
He told Sky News that Meta employees are still working on a hybrid basis and will likely continue to do so.
“I know the whole company will be very happy that we’re going to get back together … we’re all wondering what the long-term settlement of all this will be.”
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Despite the spikes in VR and AR technology, Mr Rubin says he doesn’t think immersion goggles will be the only way to access the Metworld:
“I think that over time, augmented reality will become a bigger and bigger part of our lives… but I think there will be many cases where we don’t dive into reality and want to use a 2D screen … so the screens will last a long time. Maybe forever. “
It is clear that smart clothing does not stop at Fitbit or Apple Watch.
The race for our faces continues.