Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Snap, Facebook Apple, Magic Leap and others are all working on some form of smart glasses or headset that will change how we view the world around us.
There’s a race to be the first to make a set of glasses that everyone will wear, which means they have to be fashionable and sleek enough to wear all day and everywhere you go. One day be able to replace every screen in your life with just one pair of smart glasses.
Today, most AR headsets are too big, too expensive and simply too weird-looking to make sense for everyday use. That’s not keeping tech companies from trying though.
Microsoft is working on advanced augmented reality products. Its HoloLens 2 headset went on sale last week and a modified version is being tested by the Army to make soldiers more effective on the battlefield.
It has commercial uses, too. HoloLens 2 is capable of displaying computer programs over your vision so you don’t always have to sit at a computer to do work. It can help workers in the field identify problems and make fixes without digging through manuals.
The HoloLens 2 is too big and at $3,500 too expensive for most consumers.
Snap’s Spectacles 3 glasses, which go on sale this week for $380, let users snap pictures and videos of the world around them and then add augmented reality effects to those clips inside the Snapchat app.
You can’t currently see any information through the glasses themselves, but the company is reportedly working toward adding augmented reality into the frames.
Snap’s strategy has been different than those of Microsoft, Facebook and Magic Leap. It starts with glasses and plans to add a computer system later. The other companies have bulkier headsets with computers but haven’t sold glasses yet.
Google still sells its Google Glass product, which shows information, but not 3D augmented reality, to wearers. The original version, aimed at consumers, may have come too soon.
Google is still investing in the space and most recently launched a new version in May for commercial uses. Google’s Android platform on phones now supports augmented reality apps, too, which means it’s building a library of applications that could one day be used in more advanced versions of Google Glass.
While Google hasn’t publicly talked about new AR glasses yet, it’s obvious the company is building a foundation where AR makes more sense on our heads instead of on a phone.
Magic Leap’s first headset launched in August 2018 and, like Microsoft HoloLens 2, is a relatively bulky headset that’s capable of showing games, 3D animations, virtual video screens and more, all in a digital world around you.
You can still see everywhere you walk, and anyone you’re talking to, but AR applications let you watch TV, work in computer programs and more, all while still seeing the normal world.
But like HoloLens 2, Magic Leap is expensive, with a starting price of $2,295.
Apple’s headset is reportedly set to launch in 2022, but the first model is the size of Facebook’s Oculus Quest virtual reality headset. A smaller glasses-size version that it says is due to launch in 2023 may be more attractive to people, since that form factor will allow it to be worn all day instead of around the house.
Like Google, Apple’s iOS platform is already home to thousands of augmented reality apps. Apple probably added AR support to its iPhones and iPads in an effort to teach people more about the technology and show them how games and information will work once they’re overlaid in front of our faces.
Facebook’s strategy is different than almost everyone else’s. It currently sells virtual reality products that take you out of the real world and into a digital realm where you can’t see anything around you. But Facebook is also interested in augmented reality.
In September that Facebook has partnered with Ray-Ban parent company Luxottica to develop augmented reality glasses. It plans to launch the wearable, internally called Orion, between 2023 and 2025.
Amazon, Google, Magic Leap, Facebook and Microsoft all have foundations in place to create computers that we wear on our faces. Now the race is on for getting there first and for selling them to consumers at affordable prices that make them must-have products.
We may still be years away from this happening, but the apps, smart voice assistants and software are already in place.