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New Glasses Target Aspects Of AR & VR

Augmented and virtual reality in the workplace as AR glasses get smaller.

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Despite all the recent noise about the Metaverse (and Facebook changing its company name to Meta), I remain convinced that augmented reality (AR) is going to be more important than virtual reality (VR), at least in the medium term. For one thing, virtual reality headsets are large and expensive, at least today. I’m also not convinced that we all want to live in a virtual world like that…but I don’t even play video games so what do I know?

I have covered various aspects of this, some technical, some more social:

These glasses on the right, from a company called Nreal, are the best AR glasses I have tried (this image is from the second to last post above). For one thing, they look fairly normal unlike the much more powerful Microsoft Hololens and earlier products such as Google Glasses. Of course, partially this is because the technology is getting smaller (thanks, semiconductors). If you read the last post of the links above, it details the development of an augmented reality approach that is even more invisible since it’s all hidden in a contact lens.

Nreal’s latest glasses are designed for watching videos and playing mobile games. It is a lot cheaper apparently than the earlier version. But it is hard to find out since it has the worst website ever and it is impossible to find out any facts, just beautiful pictures. It seems the “virtual screen” appears to be 200″ but, to be honest, I have no idea how that is measured, but for sure an image projected on your glasses will look much larger less than an inch away than across the room.

I have worn virtual reality glasses too. But I’m not sure how good the systems were. Facebook’s (sorry, Meta’s) Oculus has a reputation for being the best. The latest model, the Oculus Quest, seems to cost either $299 or $399 depending on memory. There seems to be received wisdom that for VR you need high screen resolution, high frame rate, and very responsive detection of your head and eyes moving. Otherwise, you are likely to get motion sickness.

Here’s someone who is ahead of the curve in this Wired article from earlier this year I spent two weeks working in VR and now I’m not sure what’s real. Subtitle: From scribbling on whiteboards on a beach to replying to emails in outer space, could a VR headset be the answer to WFH woes?

Or here’s another guy who switched his workspace from three screens to VR He wrote a blog post about it: I moved my workspace to VR, here’s what I learnt.

I read an article by a guy who has moved permanently to VR and no longer has any screens. Unfortunately, I can’t find it right now, but he has worked a normal working week entirely in VR for some time and has a lot more experience than most articles you will find. More normally someone tries it for a week or a month and then goes back.

Rayban Stories

It seems that for the time being the various capabilities are available in different products. You can watch videos or play mobile games without requiring head or eye-tracking. To see how the state of one corner of the art has got, I obtained a pair of Rayban Stories. These are sunglasses that look very similar to a normal pair of Raybans. The branding is entirely Rayban, but in some way they were developed with Facebook (so they are meta-glasses). They don’t play videos, but they do play music and you can take a phone call. There is also a still/video camera built-in. Once you set it up right, photos and videos upload automatically to the photo app on your iPhone and also to Facebook. There is a little LED on the front of the glasses that flashes (for a photo) or comes on continuously (for a video). But unless you know to look for it, it is not very obvious.

Did you spot it in the photo? It is the tiny white light on the top right of the glasses (left as you look at this image). Just above it on the right (left as you look) “arm” (apparently technically called a “temple”) is a button. You press it briefly to start a video, and again to stop it (or it stops automatically after 30 seconds). You hold it down for an extended period to take a still image. Yes, I find it counterintuitive and keep doing the wrong one since it seems natural that a brief click takes a photo and holding it down is video. You tap the side of the frame to start music and slide your finger along to change the volume.

Charging is done in the case, which has another battery inside so that you can still charge the glasses without being connected to power (via USB-C). Obviously, I didn’t take these photos with the glasses since I only have one pair, but here’s a video to give you an idea of the quality.

Given that I already have a smartphone for taking good-quality photos, this is still more of a novelty than truly useful. But I can see different pieces of the technology coming together. At least when it is all perfected, we’ll know we’re living in a simulation. Now we just have to trust that we are not in the matrix. And can you believe that that the movie “The Matrix” was released in 1999 over two decades ago?

In Ben Thompson and James Altucher’s November 5th podcast on VR/AR, Ben is firmly convinced that VR is going to be an enterprise play (like Windows was) and that Microsoft will be the winner in the space. Definitely worth a listen whether you agree or disagree. A key question is whether VR is more like a better Zoom, or whether it is more like wandering around a shared office space.



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