Roughly a year and a half after unveiling the HoloLens-like ThinkReality A6, Lenovo is back with its take on enterprise-grade smartglasses, and the results look impressive. Then again, looks can be deceiving.
On Sunday, a day ahead of the opening of the virtual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Lenovo took the wraps off of the ThinkReality A3, a sleek pair of smartglasses designed for office and field roles in enterprises and scheduled to begin shipping by mid-2021 to select markets worldwide for an undisclosed price.
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Running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform, ThinkReality A3 comes equipped with stereoscopic 1080p displays tucked within the frames (rather appended to the exterior as with Google Glass or Vuzix M400) that can project up to five virtual displays in the user's field of view. The smartglasses feature a center-framed 8MP RGB camera that can capture 1080p video for use in remote assistance interactions along with dual fish-eye cameras for spatial tracking.
There will actually be two different versions of the ThinkReality A3, a PC Edition and an Industrial Edition. In a press briefing ahead of CES, Kevin Beck, senior story technologist for Lenovo, explained that the underlying technology is essentially the same, connecting to either a computer or smartphone via USB-C, but each version is built around specific business uses.
As its name implies, the PC Edition is intended for connecting to desktop computers and displaying a number of virtual screens in the user's field of view, not unlike the Screens app from Magic Leap. The PC Edition also enables users to run Windows apps to get work done.
Meanwhile, the Industrial Edition is meant for tethering to Android (or, as Lenovo would prefer, Motorola) mobile devices, allowing users to roam free across factory floors and within laboratories and access hands-free remote assistance and guided workflow apps via the smartglasses. The Industrial Edition also comes with a Motorola smartphone, a subscription to the ThinkReality software suite, and an industrial kit for eye protection.
"The A3 is a next-generation augmented reality solution – light, powerful, and versatile. The smart glasses are part of a comprehensive integrated digital solution from Lenovo that includes the advanced AR device, ThinkReality software, and Motorola mobile phones," said Jon Pershke, Lenovo's vice president of strategy and emerging business for the Intelligent Device Group, in a statement. "Whether working in virtual spaces or supporting remote assistance, the ThinkReality A3 enhances workers' abilities to do more wherever they are."
The ThinkReality A3 appears to be the same pair of smartglasses that leaked on social media last month. Nevertheless, the smartglasses are certainly a step up in the design department from the company's previous dive in augmented reality hardware. While smartglasses have a lower bar for aesthetics when it comes to enterprise customers, the A3 could easily pivot towards a consumer device with just a few tweaks.
What's less certain is how they will perform. Our hands-on with the ThinkReality A6 left much to be desired. Since the ThinkReality A3 is designed to act more as a heads-up display rather than as a spatial computing device, this change alone may help cancel out the shortcomings of its predecessor.
UPDATE, Tuesday, August 17, 2021: Lenovo has just announced that the ThinkReality A3 device is now available for purchase here.
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