These smart glasses offer a glimpse at the future Apple and Facebook are planning

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  • Start-up Avgant has created an LED light engine that could enable device makers to build small, stylish augmented reality smart glasses.
  • I demoed Avgant’s Light Engine in October and was blown away by the crystal clarity of Component-created AR visuals.

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I recently tried out a pair of prototype smart glasses from Avegant, which gave me a glimpse of a future where we could watch video, get directions, and more through a pair of traditional-looking shades. View notifications and do more.

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These types of specs could be the next big thing as companies like Facebook, Snap, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and others look beyond phones.

I’ve worn Google Glass, Microsoft Hololens, Snap’s Specicles, and most recently, Facebook’s Ray-Ban Stories glasses. But they all have drawbacks. They’re either too big and heavy to wear everywhere (Hololens), yet don’t display anything on the lens (Facebook) or look silly (Glasses, Hololens, Google Glass.)

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Big tech companies will need smart glasses to look normal if they are to have any chance of success. That’s why they’re looking for a display component that’s smaller and can be manufactured and shipped within the next year or two, Edward Tang, CEO of Avagant, told Businesshala.

Avgent doesn’t make smart glasses, but it put together a prototype pair to demonstrate the capabilities of a new LED augmented-reality lighting engine, which the company unveiled to the public this fall. And I was impressed.

Here’s what you need to know.

The current ‘smart’ glasses problem

Lots of companies are making smart glasses, but they’re all taking different approaches. This is kind of a mistake. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Microsoft’s $3,500 Hololens and $2,295 Magic Leap 1 are the most advanced, but they’re bulky and similar to goggles.
  • Amazon offers the $249.99 Echo Frames, but they only let you talk to Alexa and you don’t see any augmented reality view through the lens.
  • Facebook’s $299 Ray-Ban Stories glasses can be used to take photos and videos, but little else. The latest version of Snap’s Spectacles offers some AR views, but it’s not trendy and is only available to social media creators.
  • Google rebranded its $999 Glass device for enterprise customers after being rejected by the public due to privacy concerns.
  • apple is too reportedly working on his glasses, but it is still unclear when they will be unveiled, let alone released to the public.

Avgent thinks it has a solution that can help companies create a product that people will want to buy regularly.

Its new Light Engine, which is thinner than a pencil and weighs as much as a large paper clip, fits within the hinge and temple of the glasses where it can show high-definition views to the wearer. The Light Engine could enable some companies that don’t have the huge hardware engineering teams to create glasses as stylish and small as a pair of Ray-Bans, but the visual capabilities seen in science fiction movies like “Terminator.” offer. ,

a glimpse of the future

I demonstrated the Light Engine in October when Tang handed me prototype specs built by his team. They were slim and looked like any normal pair of glasses, except they were attached to the smartphone by a cable. The purpose of the prototype is to demonstrate how small a hardware manufacturer can make specs using Avgent’s Light Engine.

“We’re building our stuff for these customers to have the smallest buildable display,” Tang said.

I put on glasses. In the center of my field of view came a translucent blue square, showing a display that was overlaid on what I was seeing in real life. Then the demo started.

The glasses began to cycle through the different scenes. The small translucent screen showed me the weather, a stock chart, and a text message conversation. I was looking in Tang’s direction and could see her, but the scenery also appeared above her in crystal clarity. It was true augmented reality.

The highlight of the demo was when the glasses started playing the video. This was an excerpt from a soccer match at this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament. I saw green grass, huge crowds and players passing the ball to each other before the forward scored a goal in the back of the net. The game looked as good and as great as I was watching at home on my living room TV or sitting with friends at a sports bar.

The Avgent Light Engine provides a 30-degree field of view and looks like a rectangle in the middle of my line of sight.

I handed the pair of glasses back to Tang, who put them on and started watching the demo. I could barely tell he was seeing anything, although I did see a subtle hint of blue light on the lens. It was as if he was daydreaming.

But there are still drawbacks. Manufacturers who use the Avagant Lite engine must determine how much battery life they want in their smart glasses. The longer the battery life, the bigger the specs. Similarly, the 30-degree field of view is comparable to the first Hololens, but it has a smaller window than Microsoft’s Hololens 2.

reality

Components like Avagent could help some tech companies develop smart glasses that people will want to wear. But it’s still early days and skeptics don’t think we’ll have normal-looking smart glasses anytime soon.

“The long-term vision here is to get rid of your phone in your hand, and you’ll be wearing your phone to your face,” said Kevin Irwin, chief investment officer at Knollwood Investments. Irwin is an investor in Avgent.

Avegant is yet to mass-produce its light engine. It envisions a business model in which it will sell components to companies that can build it into their smart glasses.

Carl Guttag, an expert in augmented reality display devices, pointed out that large companies may not even need the Avgens technology.

“Facebook and Apple are ground-up companies — they have phenomenal, big teams working on this stuff,” Guttag said. “If you get my drift, they don’t need an avgrant, whereas a snap might be because they’re not really into it. They want to get an ingredient.”

Guttag is also skeptical about smart glasses replacing smartphones sometime in the near future, which will limit the Avagant’s possibilities.

“Expecting that these things are going to be like Ray-Bans is very far off the charts,” Guttag said. “Now with something like the Avgante’s engine you can get something that’s moderately stylish. It’s going to be a little big and heavy, but not quite there.”

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