Augmented Reality Eyewear for the Workplace

Augmented Reality Eyewear for the Workplace

Augmented reality (AR) integrates digital information with the user’s real-world environment. AR glasses have already made their way into workplaces around the world as essential tools for many industries.

Unlike other AR products, these glasses look a lot like normal sunglasses. The tech is hidden behind the frames so it won’t eat into your face.

1. Vuzix Blade

Vuzix Blade is a set of smart glasses that uses Augmented Reality (AR). It’s not as well-known as the Oculus Rift, Hololens, Vive, Gear VR or Cardboard because the company behind the platform isn’t quite as large. However, the Blade does offer a number of advantages that make it a compelling choice for companies and their employees.

The pair of glasses is designed for frontline workers and others who need access to data and remote expertise while keeping their hands free. The Blade features advanced waveguide projection technology, a built-in 720p/8MP digital camera and is powered by Android OS. It also features ANSI Z87.1 safety glasses certification and supports the use of voice commands with Amazon Alexa. It can also store and stream videos, take pictures, display notifications and more.

Users can control the device using voice commands, a touch interface or its app. The Blade is also able to integrate with MDM ar eyewear solutions for hardware management. It can last up to 12 hours on a single charge, although it will drain faster when using the camera or receiving a lot of notifications.

The main drawback for the Blade is its appearance. It’s a bit chunky and looks more like a pair of Oakley sunglasses than the sleeker options from Bose Frames Tenor, Ossii Sound Smart Glasses or the upcoming North Focals. The company is working on slimming down the design to bring it closer in look and feel to other augmented reality glasses.

2. North Focals

Focals are augmented reality glasses made by Canadian manufacturer North (formerly Thalmic Labs). They’re designed to display notifications from your phone directly into your field of view without interrupting you or making you reach up and touch a touchpad or swipe.

The Focals’ display is small and circular, positioned just in front of your right eye. A projector bounces the notification off a small piece of photopolymer film that’s built into the frame and projects it onto your retina.

The design is slick and discreet — passersby are unlikely to even notice you’re wearing them. But the frames themselves are bulky and heavy. And the arms bend halfway through them, which is a bit odd, since it’s hard to hang them from your neck or use them as reading glasses.

One of the Focals’ most interesting features is a connection to Alexa that lets you ask for information, answer text messages and perform other basic functions. Another useful feature is a map that shows your location, where you’re headed and how to get there, such as an Uber itinerary or walking directions.

You can only buy Focals in person via a process that requires a visit to one of North’s two stores (in Toronto or Brooklyn). If you have prescription lenses, they cost $200 more. The price makes them more of a gadget for early adopters than the mainstream. And the fact that Focals feel like a work in progress restricts their audience even further.

3. Rokid Air

Rokid Air is a sleek and stylish pair of AR glasses that feel polished on the hardware front. It’s lightweight, customizable for comfort and comes with a hard carry case to store it in when not in use. The design is heavily sci-fi inspired and might draw some glances if you wear it in public.

A big selling point is the fact that it supports a large range of devices that connect via its USB-C port. It can be used to play games, watch movies, take video calls or even hike with a map displayed overlaid on the real world. There’s also the option to set reminders and calendar events using a voice assistant.

The device is myopia-friendly, with dials to adjust diopters. The maximum adjustment is -6.00D, which is enough for people with myopia to use the device without needing to wear glasses. It also has enhanced 9-axis sensors, 3DoF head tracking and wearing detection to ensure the glasses will fit comfortably and securely.

The Rokid Air has a high-quality 1080P OLED dual display, 43degFoV and 55 pixels per degree that delivers an immersive experience. Its pocket-sized form factor and weight of only 83g makes it perfect for travel, work or entertainment. It also has HD directional speakers and noise-canceling microphones, making it easy to interact with content hands-free.

4. Nreal Air

The Nreal Air are a smart pair of glasses ar eyewear that do a lot more than just mirror your smartphone’s display. They can be used with compatible devices to create a virtual big screen experience, and they can even be connected to PCs and gaming consoles to play in a desktop mode.

These smart glasses look like a normal pair of sunglasses (although they’re slightly heavier than some other AR specs) and have dual micro-OLED displays to project what is essentially a fixed 1080p image over everything you see. The Nreal Air can connect to most USB-C smartphones and some laptops (though I had issues with the MacBook Pro in testing), enabling you to use them as a monitor. They can also be paired with a desktop computer and Steam Deck for a variety of immersive gaming experiences.

The displays work with most apps to track your head movements, allowing the Nreal Air to mimic the position of your eyes and adjust the image accordingly. This is an important feature for the AR tech to have, as it’s the only way to make sure you don’t have to constantly refocus when you move your head around.

One major downside is that the Nreal Air don’t have their own internal battery, meaning they rely on the power and data of the device to which you’re connecting them. When I used them to watch a video on my iPhone, they drained the phone’s battery by about 50% over an hour. You can avoid this by purchasing an official Apple Lightning Digital AV adapter, which is currently available for $59 as an optional add-on for the Nreal Air.

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