Your future through AR smart glasses

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this January was mostly about the integration of the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies in a varied array of applications for use in the day-to-day lives of people.
The best platform for AR technology to thrive is its use in smart glasses. Several brands such as Intex and Vuzix apart from Google, Daqri, and Microsoft have lately come up with smart glasses that use AR technology. These are cost-efficient, and they look like normal glasses that are bigger in size, unlike their predecessors.
The Vuzix Blade augmented reality smart glasses were recently disclosed at the CES and they took their audience by surprise. These glasses have a floating screen on the top corner of the right lens and it has integrated Amazon’s Alexa voice control.
Augmented reality has gained a lot of attention in the recent years, even though this reality technology is not a new one. The concept of reality technologies has been around since the early 20th century. Sci-fi authors such as Stanley G. Weinbaum, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and William Gibson have written at length about the blurring line between reality and simulation in their novels. Hollywood science fiction films like The Terminator (1984), Robocop (1987) and They Live (1988) had explored the concept of augmented reality much before the technology became a commercial commodity.

Meaning

So, ‘What is augmented reality?’, you may ask. The term ‘augment’ stands for making something greater by adding to it. Augmented reality is the juxtaposition of computer-generated images on top of real-world objects so that the viewer perceives a heightened reality.

History

It was Professor Tom Caudell who first coined the term augmented reality (AR) around 1990, and it was the US Air Force that used the first operational AR system two years later. It was around 1999 when the concept of Augmented Reality became widely popular among the computer programmers after Hirokazu Kato from Japan introduced the open-source software for Augmented Reality known as the ARToolKit. With the ARToolKit, one could capture video through a camera with an internet connection and be able to track the physical world in real time by blending it with the virtual environment.

How are AR, VR and MR different from each other?

Apart from the augmented reality technology, there are two other types known as virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR). Virtual reality (VR) is the most immersive as it allows the user to be inside the three-dimensional virtual world. While mixed reality (MR) is an amalgamation of the best of both virtual and augmented realities, some researchers argue that there is hardly any difference between the both of them. Augmented reality is sometimes used as a blanket term for both mixed and augmented realities. However, the developers who made the Microsoft Hololens called it an MR technology device.

AR technology and popular culture

Recent films such as the Minority Report (2002), Iron Man (2008) and Bladerunner 2049 (2017) have used augmented reality effectively. AR technology, however, is not limited to films or TV shows in popular culture. In fact, it was the game ‘Pokemon Go’ that made AR popular among millions of fans. In this game, the players are required to find the small monsters through their iOS and Android smartphones.

Older Smart Glasses

Google Glasses are smart glasses that use Augmented Reality and they were made available to the public back in 2012. They majorly compromised on the style quotient, and could not become popular among the users specifically because of their design and the cost. Similarly, Microsoft Hololens is an augmented reality headset that was introduced in 2015. It was mainly for the enterprise market and it has not convinced the consumer market yet due to its high cost. Microsoft Hololens is much more sophisticated than the Oculus Rift VR headset as it is controlled by voice and gesture and has no wires.

Vuzix Blade AR Smart Glasses

According to popular opinion, these normal looking glasses have overcome what Google glasses could not do in terms of their design. The Vuzix Blade AR smart glasses have regular smartphone functions through simple gesture controls, making it possible to read emails and messages. These glasses are not intended for ‘Holographic Computing’ like the Microsoft Hololens, and are not very heavy on the pocket. Vuzix is planning to decrease it’s price to half from the original in order to tap the consumer market in a year or two, and if we see a few years down the line, smart glasses have the potential to make smartphones obsolete in the near future.

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