Augmented reality, the technology enabling the connection between real-world experiences and digital content, relies heavily on proper devices. Providing future-proof software to supplement reality with functional elements is just half the battle.
But first, a quick recap.
🗣 Wearable devices are capable of displaying digital content before users’ eyes, without cutting off contact with the surrounding world. Smart glasses vary in size, complexity, and usage. The more advanced pieces are a go-to solution for experts, especially in demanding environments.
The hard part comes with professional use cases, especially in heavy-duty applications when both operators and the equipment are exposed to harsh conditions. Industries such as mining, manufacturing, aerospace, construction, and oil and gas processing, increasingly adopt AR in their operations. The margin of error is very narrow and safety requirements are strict.
How do AR glasses work?
Sure, it’s possible to benefit from AR using everyday devices like smartphones and tablets. However, wearable pieces offer the best experience and convenience, crucial in industrial use cases. But how do AR glasses work? The advanced wearable technology is a substitute for numerous tools and solutions used while carrying out processes the traditional way – paper manuals, hand-held cameras or traditional communication devices, and multimedia projectors.
AR smart glasses (in this case, models suitable for professional use) share most of the features. A display for presenting the digital content, a camera for spatial orientation and recording the surroundings, microphones, and speakers for verbal communication, and convenient mounting (usually reminiscent of traditional glasses). Devices built with the industry in mind should offer resilience to harsh conditions, greater ability to withstand damage compared to everyday equipment, compatibility with safety equipment, and full mobility. Users can operate most glasses with voice commands and gestures without interrupting work.
So much for the introduction, here go our top 5 AR glasses:
Specs: SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 | OS: Android Open Source Project 8.1 (Oreo) | Camera: 8 Megapixel color sensor | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
🗣 Google Glass is the OG of mixed reality, and it was a technological marvel when the first generation debuted to much fanfare (though without a clear use case). Google Glass Enterprise 2 builds on Google’s early lead in AR, coupling it [what is “it”?] with a disciplined dedication to providing savvy professional users real value where it counts.
The headset runs (naturally) on the Android Open Source Platform, which is an ideal development platform. It’s also relatively inexpensive compared to competitors, running around $1,000 per set.
The aim here is an all-day wearable that’s lightweight. For those who may have their hands full with other equipment, the headset provides glanceable and voice-activated control for accessing critical information. It can be deployed usefully by a variety of pro users, from service techs, lab workers, and line personnel to power users who benefit from an extra screen. With an 8MP camera, the headset streams clear video, which can be viewed back at a centralized location for in-real-time oversight and guidance.
The best way to get Glass for your specific application is to work with a Glass Provider, a sector-specific third-party that builds out Google Glass Enterprise solutions for customers. For example, if you’re in the food service industry, you may want to turn to NSF EyeSucceed for an application that offers unassisted, hands-free training at the workstation that follows the employee while they learn and perform job tasks.
→ Super comfortable and all-day wearable
→ 8MP camera
→ Can’t be worn with glasses
→ Screens only one eye, which can feel awkward at first
Specs: Display: 2K 3.2 light engines | Head tracking: 4 visible light cameras | Eye tracking: 2 IR cameras | Front camera: 8MP stills, 1080p30 video | Microphone array: 5 channels
🗣 What do AirBus, Audi, Goodyear, Carnegie Mellon University, and L’Oreal have in common? They’ve unlocked the power of Microsoft’s truly revolutionary mixed reality headset — and you can too if you need to power up your work game.
The base HoloLens 2 headset comes in various trims based on the intended use environment. None are cheap. They range from $3,500 for a standard device to more than $5,000 for a hardhat integrated edition designed to work in rugged environments. But what you get for that investment is truly remarkable, which is why so many big brands have adopted HoloLens for manufacturing, engineering and construction, healthcare, and education.
Unlike Google Glass Enterprise 2, which is designed for quick access to information and as a wearable streaming device for remote workers, HoloLens is about interacting with mixed reality via holographic projections that the user can manipulate. Without the need for gloves, the device allows for fully articulated hand tracking so users can touch, grasp, and move holograms in ways that feel natural.
Collaboration is the real advantage here. Imagine two pharmaceutical scientists connecting over a drug discovery and manipulating a shared hologram while discussing development hurdles. Or an engineer working on a critical component in collaboration with a project leader who can see in real time how changes to one system impact the whole. This is the kind of use case where Microsoft HoloLens thrives.
Given the scalability of Azure and the deep enterprise bona fides Microsoft brings, it has become the enterprise standard for immersive, holographic mixed reality.
→ Wonderfully immersive
→ Vivid display
→ Battery life is not great
→ Very expensive
The newest piece from advanced tech providers, well-recognized for previous glasses (HMT-1/HMT1Z1) premiered in late 2021 and instantly gained acclaim among users. A convenient boom arm, a fingerprint sensor, hot-swappable battery, and high resilience to harsh conditions make it the perfect equipment for industry professionals, no matter the working area. The RealWear Navigator 500 is the Next Generation Industrial Strength Assisted Reality Solution, and as such, it’s definitely a smart choice for working in the most demanding industries. Rugged and lighter than its predecessors, the Navigator can handle day-long shifts. The modular construction allows for personalization according to individual needs.
→ Unmatched voice control
→ Noise cancellation up to 100 db
→ Cannot record 4K videos
→ Limited control options outside of voice control
Specs: Display: Dual 1080p AR displays | Camera: 8MP camera | Microphones: 3 integrated mics | Weight: 130g | Degree’s freedom: 3
🗣 Lenovo occupies an interesting market position with its ThinkReality A3 headset, a potential sweet spot between the field-ready Google Glass Enterprise 2 and the fully immersive (and fully wireless) Microsoft HoloLens 2.
That this unit is wired and designed to be used with a computer or compatible smartphone is undoubtedly its most deterministic feature, and it’s going to lose some customers right there. Others looking for immersive collaboration technology who rarely leave the home or physical office — and who use a PC at work — may shrug at the supposed limitation.
Lenovo seems to have envisioned its headset as something of a peripheral, an add-on to its existing suite of computers. In fact, the system recommendations are little more than a laundry list of ThinkPad models, though the device also can be used with the Lenovo smartphone Moto G100.
The hardware is lightweight and has features similar to what you’d see on Google Glass Enterprise, including an 8MP camera and integrated speakers. But where Google Glass is designed with field technicians in mind, the work you’re likely to do with the ThinkReality A3 is closer to a screen-share with colleagues who can’t share a physical office. It excels at that task.
Although, for nearly $1,500 and with serious compatible device constraints, this model won’t appeal to everyone.
→ Image quality
→ Easy to use
→Can wear with glasses
→ Device compatibility limited
→ Wired experience
Specs: Passthrough: Native passthrough, 8MP 1080p autofocus camera | Weight: 90g | Resolution: 480×853 per eye | Tracking: Non-positional 3DoF
🗣 The Vuzix Blade Upgraded headset is intended for remote access to multimedia content at work, whether that’s distributed field techs or workers on the line. With greater connectivity and the ability to project instructional content, schematics, and live help, the Vuzix Blade Upgraded empowers workers to finish the job on a single service call and do it right the first time — a massive time and money saver.
The headset also has great promise for collaboration in more traditional work environments and for remote workers who are looking for a great way to eliminate the distance in remote work. In fact, it was designed with remote collaboration in mind — a hallmark of the new era of work, education, and play.
The Blade Upgraded glasses benefit from the same features as the regular Blade and now include an auto-focus 8-megapixel camera, built-in stereo speakers, and advanced Vuzix voice control. The glasses render objects in the field of view in full color and can be used as FPV glasses for drone users, both commercial and consumer.
This is a durable piece of kit for the connected worker.
→ Does not require a PC connection
→ Lightweight and all-day wearable
→ Battery life (8hrs)
→ Built-in stereo
→ Can’t wear over prescription glasses (RX inserts available)
→ Have you tried any of these options? Let us know! 👇
While you are at it, check out the AR solutions we at CaptivatAR have for you!