Microsoft Hololens
Microsoft Hololens. Probably the most awaited AR headset from Vermont’s giant

Augmented Reality is a concept that can exist through a variety of devices, but most of its potential today is coming into action through wearable smart glasses. These are not corrective glasses, but most glass industry giants are already working to fuse both. Augmented Reality can translate into simply taking information (wearable cameras), to more advanced feed-back devices which can simultaneously take and display information, connect via bluetooth and feed the web via 4G wifi, coupled with GPS.

X38 AR display
X38 augmented reality landing hybrid synthetic vision system, showing a useful application for pilots. Currently another application is also thought for air control managers.

Many of these smart glasses are fully compatible or driven by smartphone tech. However, interaction is the great question. Digital pad on the frame, or, more advanced, vocal commands and hands gestures. The former was already tried on smartphones, so the second is now the great challenge of today’s AR developers. How to “calibrate” things out ?

A bit of history:
Basically the technology of the head-up display (HUD) already existed for pilots of fighter jets since 1958 (on the British Buccaneer).

It evolved into smart helmets (for assault helicopters like the Apache) and the military was keen on developing other concepts of the same kind. VR headsets (Oculus Rift type) has been also used a peripheral, unobstructed vision devices for armoured vehicle drivers (and crew).

Pranav Mistry

On the “civilian” side, back in the mid-1990s, pioneers of modern AR forged a gesture-based wearable computer system called SixthSense. It was developed at MIT Media Lab by Steve Mann in 1994, and his work was refined by Pranav Mistry with Maes and Chang as “WUW” (Wear yoUr World) in 1998. This well have inspired Google for its glasses and triggered many other players, until it reach some areas of the industry and more recently (with Hololens) a large public. Of course Google will return with a new concept and Mac is expected to catch up fast…


WUW demo

Top smart glasses on the market

Here are the finest AR devices and Smart Glasses you can find on the market, past, present and in development today:

Minolta Smart Glasses

Konica Minolta Smart Glasses
Konica Minolta Smart Glasses

This early device could be coined as the “grandfather” of smart glasses, as the concept dated back in 2001. Only known from scientific reviews it lacked a lot of Google glass features at that time. Now known as the WCC or “wearable communicator” coupled with the CPS (Cyber Physical Systems).

Google Glass

Google Glass
Status: Retired. First AR device first seen in april 2012, weared by Sergey Brin at Foundation Fighting Blindness in San Francisco. Seen on TV at The Gavin Newsroom Show in May, and more widely publicized on the net at the Google I/O conference and direct Hangout on Google+. It became an instant success, and volunteers poured en masse in 2013 for the 2014-2015 test campaign. However in 2015 it was announced the project was halted for a total makeover under Tonny Fadell supervision, it’s now “Project Aura”, waiting for a reboot.

Microsoft HoloLens

Revealed last year and now on the market at large, these well-awaited AR glasses are featuring a wide array of applications backed by Windows 10. But they still have to prove their metal as a true day-to-day everybody’s working application which is a whole true challenge and very topic of varws.com. Will you prefer doing some excel work in Augmented Reality ? Seriously ? This first version is still very much on the entertainment level only, but given its brand reputation, no doubts more applications will come in time. Windows 10 is compatible with AR but that does not make it a true AR-tailored OS in any way.

Vuzix smart glasses

The company sells two smart glasses (M100 and 300) powered by an Intel Atom onboard processor with an android interface, and monocular display.

Airscouter

By printer-maker Brother, it is actually called WD-200B, it had an Adjustable headband and arm
Built-in Lithium, Ion battery, plus 720p resolution (1280×720 pixels) and HDMI connection.

Epson Moverio

BT-200 and BT-300 range, available for developers at 2x virtual screen size and most AndroidTM apps.

Atheer Smart Glasses

Industry-focused AR outdoor/indoor glasses with 8 hours of battery life and Android compatibility, it features the AiR Gestures™ system and powerful on board computing AiR OS plus battery (about 4000 dollars). The company is based in Mountain View, Cal. A serious rival for Hololens for the AR OS development.

ODG Series A

American smart glasses by Osterhout Design Group (ODG) based in San Francisco. These are featuring 3D, HD, sunlight readable mixed reality (up to 100% opacity) screen for indoor/outdoor android-based applications, with an HD camera and Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 2.7GHz Quad-core Processor.

Magic Leap

On Air since 2013, these smart glasses are still waiting to be revealed.

Golden-i

This heavy-duty headset is more about ruggedness and turned resolutely towards industry. It has a 15 inch screen, a 14-MP camera, 9-axis motion sensor but its equally focused on vocal commands as gesture.

Meta 2

These almost 1000 dollars glasses features an impressive true 360° arc vision, with a 90-degree field of view and 2560 x 1440 display resolution. Its development kit includes the Unity 3D engine.

Laforge Shima

Smart glasses with corrective lenses, prescription eyewear, connected to a smartphone.

Laster Wave/SeeThru

Monocular display, light (100g) design compatible with most eyeglasses and helmets, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, 9-axis inertial unit, side touchpad and ANDROID OS.

Epiphany Eyewear

Epiphany Eyewear
In 2014 rumored to be purchased in secret by Snapchat these are Designed by David Meisenholder (Lady Gaga’s GL20 glasses) and are more related to the classic Ray-Ban in style. Developed by Vergence Labs, a subsidiary of Snap Inc. They are branded for live-stream upload to a computer or social media. Status: Under funding at Indiegogo.

Also in development:
Optinvent Ora-1
Mirama glasses
Castar
K-Glass project
Glassup
Bubble Glasses

K-Glass

Wearable Cameras

Pivothead Smart

Wearable HD camera with Live Stream, but it’s much all about these. They are strongly related to the Recon Snow 2 and Recon Jet googles for sport and outdoor in general. See also spectacles glasses.

Links:
Wikipedia’s smart glasses article
About the Eyetap or digital eye glass
http://wearcam.org/6ense.htm
http://www.pranavmistry.com/projects/sixthsense/
2009 Sixth Sense Patti Maes on TED talk