Augmented Reality blends the real life environment with virtual objects from the digital world. It is becoming increasingly popular amongst tech companies as well as new startups. Augmented Reality has been in development over the last couple of years and we have experienced early prototypes of headsets in development. A prominent example is the Google Glass project.
The technology is still in its early stages but it shows a lot of promise. Augmented Reality is the future and tech companies are working round the clock to develop the best tech possible. Some of the most exciting augmented reality headsets in development to look out for:
1) Microsoft Hololens
Microsoft stunned the world with the surprise announcement of Hololens. Hololens is an augmented reality headset with a heads-up display that blends your environment with high definition “holograms” (or virtual objects that can only be seen through the lens). Users can interact with anything using Hololens. The headset comprises of see-through holographic lenses, different sensors, a custom processing unit and advanced optics for capturing the environment. Hololens features an adjustable design for comfort and comes with a built-in speaker for sound. It is an extra-ordinary piece of engineering that brings life to the environment we live in. Users will be able to interact with 3D designs, play games such as Minecraft and much more. Early demos were promising but the headset still needs some work before it is available to the general public.
CastAR is another augmented reality headset in development. The headset comprises of a pair of glasses and a surface for the headset to scan. The design is much simpler as it features a pair of see-through lenses with a camera in the middle and two micro-projectors. The camera scans the environment around you and adjusts accordingly. The micro-projectors then project images of the environment and you can interact with them.
CastAR also features a Magic Wand which is used to interact in the augmented world. The wand can be used to interact with objects, move an object in the virtual world or play an augmented reality video game. It might not be the best way to interact with the objects since people will prefer using their hands for interaction.
3) Moverio BT-200
Most people recognize Epson as a printer manufacturer but the company is also stepping in to augmented reality with Moverio BT-200 headset. The headset is specifically designed to watch HD content including 3D content. The headset also supports traditional AR headset features with compatible apps. Moverio BT-200 features a front facing camera, a motion sensor, microphone, GPS, Dolby Digital Plus sound, compass and micro-projectors. Unfortunately, the headset only supports 960 x 540 resolution and project images onto the transparent glasses. Users can watch videos, play games, navigate and interact with the environment.
The biggest drawback of Moverio BT-200 is that it not wireless and needs to be connected to an Android based device at all times. The headset costs $699 and features a 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU, 1 GB RAM and comes with a rather outdated Android Ice cream sandwich operating system.
Meta is an upgrade to Google Glass. Google Glass only displayed information on a small screen on the glasses but Meta embeds augmented reality in the glasses as well. Users interact with augmented reality apps using their hands and the projected images are placed on top of the real environment. Meta allows users to manipulate 3D objects and has the freedom of unlimited screens. Users can just grab a piece of paper and turn it into an AR screen using Meta. The headset is designed for 3D modelers who develop various models for different purposes such as cars, art and much more. Meta features 3D HD display, motion tracking, 3D surround sound, and camera and expected price range is $667 to $3650.
5) Laster SeeThru
Laster SeeThru is not your usual augmented reality headset. It does not come with a camera. Instead it relies on its own location based system and GPS to map your environment. One might say it will not be as accurate as others but it is a different approach to augmented reality. Laster SeeThru is targeted towards sportsman and travelers. The headset cannot map the environment inside your house which is a bit of a disappointment. On the positive note, people will not feel insecure about privacy because the headset does not feature a camera.
SeeThru provides live information when you are doing outdoor activities such as paragliding, biking etc. It features wireless communication with your smartphone, localization, navigation, head tracker and contacts access from the phone. The headset is expected to be available for $399.
Icis has one of the simplest designs when it comes to augmented reality headsets. The headset looks like your average glasses without any visible component such as a camera, sensors, etc. All the components are expertly hidden inside the frame which is nothing short of an engineering marvel. Icis features a camera, speaker, microphone, battery, circuit board and pairs wirelessly with any Android, iOS or Windows device.
Icis has a HUD like display with several widgets on display. The company is also developing an app called SocialFlo that allow users to select which apps should be displayed as widgets on the heads-up display. Icis will be available for a reasonable price of just $220.
7) Magic Leap
This company has been very secretive and remained unknown to most people until Google and a number of firms invested $542 million in them in October 2014. Magic Leap has released a video which looks pretty neat:
On its developer site, Magic Leap writes: “Using our Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal™, imagine being able to generate images indistinguishable from real objects and then being able to place those images seamlessly into the real world. Imagine you being one of the first to help transform the world forever. For the time being, we’re being a little tight-lipped in what we’re communicating publicly, but under the appropriate non-disclosures, we’d love to talk possibilities.”
These are some of the augmented reality headsets in development. Most of them are scheduled for a 2016 launch but since it’s a new technology, delays are expected. The most promising AR headsets in my opinion are Hololens, Icis and Magic Leap. All three of them offer some amazing features and have a great design. Icis rules in terms of design but Hololens is the complete headset you can get. I’m more excited about Augmented Reality headsets than the Virtual Reality headsets.
Image Credit: Kārlis Dambrāns Google Glass under CC License 2.0