Isn’t it amazing where futuristic technology is taking us? Onto the next level, with efficiency and productivity as the focus. We have got used to technology helping us to get work done more easily, and now we are always on the lookout for ways to make things even easier. One area that has seen great development in the recent past is virtual reality and augmented reality. Let’s take a look at the latter.
Augmented reality in its earlier days can be dated back to the 1990s, where many fighter aircraft had details like altitude, direction, speed, and other parameters on the windscreen. Since then, various companies have worked in the augmented reality sector to develop a range of civilian products. We now have devices like Heads up displays (HUDs), Holographic displays, Smart glasses, and augmented reality on smartphones.
Types of Augmented Reality devices
Heads up Displays (HUDs)
Among all the technologies in this sector, HUDs were the first to be introduced. As mentioned, the tech dates back to the 1990s when aircrafts had a lot of controls, data, sensors, avionics, and more to be monitored simultaneously. With the help of HUDs, pilots were able to see all the required information on the windscreen of the aircraft without having to take their eyes off of it. HUDs mainly have three components: a projector unit, viewing glass, and a computer (symbol generator). These days, the tech has found its way to the automobile market for both convenience and aesthetic reasons.
Holographic displays are advanced kinds of augmented reality tending to project an object in front of the user. Just like we have seen hinted at in movies like Star Wars and Iron Man, there have also been workaround DIY solutions to make holographic displays. Holographic displays use light diffraction to generate 3D objects in the real world without having to use any wearable device to view it. This tech has been premonidently fictional, but just recently it has been seeing limelight with various projects, including by individual hobbyists.
The world has benefited the most from this type of augmented reality device. What these kinds of devices are capable of is just amazing. Smart Glasses are of two types, based on their capabilities:
Optical see-through glasses
With this type of glasses, you can instantly view the desired output right in front of you. The optical elements like holographic waveguides make it possible for you to enable graphical overlay to view in a real space. Google Lens and Magic Leap One are a couple of examples of this tech.
These types of glasses capture the real world in front of you with cameras, and then produce the desired type of rendering with other imagery also included. However, with smartphones now being equipped with needed sensors needed for this kind of technology, these types of glasses are not much of use until the glasses come with both optical see-through and video see-through.
This tech is available through all the latest smartphones right there in your hands, thanks to augmented reality libraries like the ARKit, ARCore, MRKit. You can instantly download various apps to perform a range of actions via your smartphone. For example, with the Pokémon GO game you can project and scale objects in real life based on augmented reality.
How is AR different from VR?
The basic difference between AR and VR is that Virtual reality (VR) is a completely computer-generated environment in which you can interact, whereas in augmented reality (AR) you just add some computer-generated objects to your vision of the real world. Other than these, there also exists Mixed Reality (MR), which is a combination of the real and virtual worlds. Microsoft’s HoloLens is one of the first of these types and is a good example of MR.
Uses of AR Smart Glasses
With the current growth in the technology industry, there can be many uses of augmented reality glasses. They can be used for different business processes, as medical aids, for IoT control, and more.
The use of augmented reality glasses in a work environment can make a huge impact on growth in efficiency and productivity. Especially, in this Fourth Industrial Revolution, in which there are many changes in terms of digital technologies with the help of smart manufacturing facilities, smart glasses can play a major role in business advancement. With the help of AR and VR, industries can gain a lot from this tech, including design optimization, maintenance & control, and problem-solving. With proper implementation, it will help with improved processes, reduced waiting time, cost-saving, and improved safety.
Other uses for augmented reality glasses
This is one of the best and most common applications of smart glasses right now. Augmented reality smart glasses can allow multiple users see a real situation. This will help in many sectors where field service check-ups, complex engineering solutions, telemedicine support, and other intricate procedures are required. Remote assistance features are making more companies turn to this tech without hesitation.
In many companies where operations and assembly require complex equipment – speed, accuracy, and productivity play a major role in success. Here, smart glasses can help with perfect assembly and quality checks in locations like automotive and aerospace manufacturing units.
In this era where almost every e-commerce giant has large warehouses where items are organized, workers can easily navigate through plenty of rows and can collect and drop items at exact locations quickly and easily with the help of smart glasses. Moreover, in terms of paperwork, smart glasses can also help in scanning documents and automatically uploading them to the cloud. This helps with cost-cutting and reducing errors.
Augmented reality glasses can help construction workers to monitor quality, symmetry, and more with ease. Some solutions can even be reached remotely as the tech brings a level of productivity similar to if the person were physically present at the location.
Tourism, theater, and sports are some other sectors where smart glasses can be used for a greater good. AR guides in places such as museums will help visitors with understanding, and also with navigation. Some theatres have experimented with giving the audience smart glasses that show subtitles while still allowing the wearer to look at the stage. Other examples include athletes being able to know their variable parameters like speed, distance, pace, and power. Drone pilots are able to see the field of view of the drone as if they are sitting in it, so as to navigate it easily. Currently, these operations are being used at only a few places, but we hope to see many more of them.
Apart from the above-mentioned operative advantages, augmented reality glasses can integrate with everything that has an automated tag to it. And if AI comes into the picture for these smart glasses then it will be a real game-changer. When interconnected with your phone, you don’t have to take out your phone every time you receive a notification, or even if you receive a call, you can just talk directly through your smart glasses. Also, with a personal assistant’s built-in, you can make queries or take actions while looking straight ahead.
Digging deeper, we can also expect more cloud integration through which you will be able to manage and monitor various services via your augmented reality glasses. At home, with everything being automated, you can control IoT devices, check where a certain device is, and turn gadgets on and off easily.
Best augmented reality glasses available right now
Many companies are working on AR technologies, but products available for the same are limited and are very feature-oriented. Each one of the glasses has specific features for which they are marketed. Although there are a few good smart glasses, they are quite expensive. Currently, the best ones you can get are:
- Microsoft’s HoloLens
- Epson Moverio
- Vuzix M300
- Google Glass Enterprise Edition
- Kopin SOLOS
- Vuzix Blade smart glasses
All the above-listed glasses have their unique features and they all can come with your regular powered lens if you need it. Back in 2013, Google first came up with Google Lens which was revolutionary but not practical enough for various applications. Everything grew later on and many other makers came into the game to produce their own. All in all, current smart glasses have great functionality and features.
Regarding possible problems with AR smart glasses, they can strain your eyes which may cause headaches. Moreover, people who have gone through laser surgery are advised to consult their doctor before using any smart glasses, and kids under 13 years old are advised not to use the devices as they may harm developing vision. In terms of day-to-day tasks and applications, it is also said that the glasses can be quite distracting to use while driving or walking as there may be certain blind spots.
Coming to what this tech has in store for us in the future, we hope to see AI integrated versions of the glasses which will help in unlocking the true potential of the smart glasses. With giants like Apple, Facebook, and Samsung working on AR smart glasses, there is no doubt that there’s great potential here. Although public usage of this technology is limited right now, there will soon be more features and the tech will become more affordable. At the same time, businesses will keep trying to adopt the tech, which in turn will benefit us at the consumer level.
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