We've shown you the best augmented reality headsets, and now it's time to show you the rest.
These are the AR headsets you've probably never heard of or even seen. The AR headsets that, in some cases, have a shot at the big time, and may one day reach widespread adoption, and, in other cases, are unwieldily contraptions that look like something out of a weird science fiction movie.
Most of these are either unavailable to the public, or just recently opened up for purchase, so while one or more might strike your fancy, this is mostly just eye candy, for now. Keep in mind, we've only tested a few of these devices, so we can't tell you how they'll all stack up regarding performance versus the major AR headsets on the market.
Nevertheless, if you've been watching all the big players slowly iterate on the AR space, but have been wondering who the other upstart, would-be contenders might be, the following is a fun snapshot to consider.
We told you about ANTVR and its Mix headset last month, just as it was launching its Kickstarter campaign to fund the device. Well, it turns out that the campaign was a success. The China-based company blew past its goal of $50,000 and has raised nearly $200,000 as of this writing.
The company claims that the device has 96-degree field of view, is lightweight (we can confirm that), and is compatible with SteamVR. Until now, we'd only seen cool mock-ups of what the finished product will look like. But at the recent AWE conference, a prototype version of the device was on display. It looks about as small as promised, but as you can see, the early version isn't exactly the most inconspicuous thing you could wear on your face.
And don't mind the circular object sitting on top of the device in the photo, that was just one of the company representatives shooting some 360 footage during the conference. The company plans to sell the device for $649 and intends to ship it to early backers this December.
There's something about this that is just weird enough to be awesome. Oh, right, it makes you look like the leader of the X-Men, Cyclops! Fittingly, the device is called the SPEX Super Vision, and it's aimed at users working in the medical and technical fields.
Equipped with a 21.7 megapixel HD camera, the Super Vision, has a 37.5-degree field of view, a 1024 x 768 display, and works with Android smartphones running Snapdragon processors. The device also features a Wi-Fi enabled two-way voice and video communication system and weighs just 100 grams.
The company doesn't show off much in the way of actual augmented reality, but mostly touts the device's ability to display video, and allow the user to zoom in on objects in the real world, as well as view real-time data streamed to the device. At present, this mutant-friendly device isn't for sale to the general public, but the company is currently looking for development partners.
Yes, we're thinking it too: "We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile." But the LOC.30 isn't an alien artifact promising humanity's doom, it's actually a prototype device from Luxembourg-based Trivisio.
So while the company does have "bourg" roots, its device isn't sci-fi and promises 30-degree field of view and a 5-megapixel camera. Designed to support augmented reality applications, the device weighs 100 grams and is meant to be used in conjunction with a PC via a USB 2.0 port. The company describes the device as having the ability to "project an image or stream video using a near-the-eye micro-display."
Most of the products in the company's inventory look like stuff you'd see in a James Bond movie during the usual Q prototype lab sequence. That is to say; the LOC.30 is fairly normal when seen amongst most of Trivisio's intriguing wearable tech inventory. Alas, the device isn't for sale, but you might have fun checking out more of the company's cutting-edge wearables on its website.
What is this beautiful, head-mounted piece of kit? It's the Action One headset from Shanghai, China-based Shadow Creator. It looks like the AR headset Nike might have designed for the futuristic Tom Cruise movie Oblivion. The Action One's display offers a 45-degree field of view and gesture recognition, as well as input through a handheld controller or via voice commands.
And while we didn't get to test it, the company promises that the Wi-Fi enabled device offers six degrees of freedom (6DoF) interaction with AR content. Some of the proposed uses for the device include navigating real-world spaces with relevant content mapped over buildings using SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), as well as interacting with data visualizations and various 3D constructs.
Among the lesser-known AR headsets out there, this is hands down one of best designs we've seen. But there's no official word on when this will be available to the general public.
It looked so cool sitting there in its glass case on the AWE show floor. And all the marketing materials made it seem like one of the coolest AR wearables available. But then we actually tried the device on and tried it out and, well, it was pretty disappointing.
The VisionAR headset, produced by Italy-based Univet, was designed for industrial and enterprise use. It's a monocular projection system and is equipped with Sony's holographic optical engine. Described by the company as "augmented reality safety glasses," the device delivers an old school, lime green interface that allows you to interact with its menu, and has a side panel that can be controlled using swiping gestures.
Everything worked at as advertised, but in 2018, even for factory use, this wasn't a very strong experience. But hey, retro design is in, so if you're looking for that '80s Terminator glasses look, with an interface to match, the VisionAR might interest you.
Something about the X1 AR headset looked really familiar, and was hard to place…but then, we got it. This isn't far off from what the Magic Leap One looks like! Although we weren't able to put the device through its paces, it was a great opportunity to see what someone might look like wearing a Magic Leap-style frame on their face in public. Early verdict: It didn't look as odd as you might think.
Produced by New Jersey-based ThirdEye Gen, the X1 is aimed at a wide array of customers, from enterprise to educational, to general consumers. Offering a 40-degree field of view at 1280 x 720 resolution, the device features a 13-megapixel camera that can shoot footage at up to 4K resolution. The device doesn't require a tether to a PC, offers a Wi-Fi connection for remote assistance communication, and allows the user to control the interface using head movements that are detected by the device's accelerometer.
The company claims that the X1, which can be outfitted with prescription lenses, gets about eight hours of battery life. We haven't tested it yet, but for $999, it looks like a pretty strong contender versus some of the better-known AR names.
This isn't so much a product; it's more of an idea. The Flex AR reference design, presented by Atheer during AWE, is a slickly designed AR headset that's paired with a belt-mounted external processing unit.
Using the Flex AR platform, along with Atheer's AiR Enterprise tools, the design is optimized for an AR device that would offer gesture, voice, and head interface control, and would be powered by a Snapdragon 835 mobile processor. This is clearly meant for enterprise users, but it was so well designed that we had to include it in this round up.
At first glance, the AR headset from Beijing, China-based NReal looks like it might conquer the world of AR. It's tiny, well designed, and even comes in a wide array of colors. But when we actually tested it a couple of weeks ago, it worked, but just barely.
Company founder Chi Xu personally took us through a demo of the device during which we were able to watch a short movie and play a traditional 2D video game in AR using the NReal headset. As a minimally viable product, it did what it was supposed to, but the experience included unreliable tracking, an extremely tiny field of view, and some latency issues. Still, for a small company, it's clear that this team has the right idea. Make it small, attractive, and focus on mostly passive entertainment if your software isn't up to snuff yet.
The NReal is a peek at the future, but when asked when the device will hit the market, Xu wouldn't offer a solid date. That's probably a good idea. This is a great looking AR headset, but considering the current competition, it's just not ready primetime yet.
- Don't Miss: Magic Leap Finally Delivered a Live, Public Demonstration of the Magic Leap One, Here's What Happened
We found a few more during our AR recent explorations, but these are the most remarkable. This time next year, some of these devices won't even exist anymore, and some might be sitting on your desk. Either way, you now have a good sense of where we're at with AR headsets regarding form factors and practicality.
And although some companies seem stuck in the past, these devices are the clearest indication that things are moving fast, and you should get ready to see people wearing AR headsets in public in the very near future. No matter how weird these devices might look to us right now, you'll soon get used to living in the future.