15 companies building futuristic AR smart glasses

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15 companies building futuristic AR smart glasses

Today, Intel showed off a pretty awesome-looking pair of smart glasses that look better than pretty much anything we’ve seen to date.

It’s unclear what the development future will be for the glasses as the company is reportedly exploring a partial sale of the division and it has already shut down work on its “merged reality” headset program. While there are a lot of questions up-in-the-air, there are also a lot of other startups working on similar solutions that do things differently than the HoloLens or Meta or Magic Leap, focusing on smart glasses that do a few useful things. All of these startups are looking to get products out in the near-term, largely for the sake or pre-empting Apple’s rumored foray into the space.

It’s the earliest days for this technology so there’s still a fair amount of vaporware popping up, but it’s so early that it doesn’t really matter because it is altogether pretty unwise for you to pre-order any AR product, we’re just not there yet for 99 percent of the tech toting populace. Whether or not you get a smartwatch is a much saner early adopter decision you should be thinking about, there are still so so so many kinks to work out with AR interfaces, navigation, privacy concerns, and native development tools that far surpass the still very apparent problems with building hardware that is ready for the masses.

There are a lot of older companies and small startups looking to tackle the problems facing smart glasses and so many advances have already taken place, here are a few of the existing solutions out there that are available, soon to be available or promising availability, when in fact, who knows if they’ll ever actually ship.

 

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Vuzix Blade

The small public company’s smart glasses are among the most attractive AR glasses that seem primed to actually go on sale. I’m pretty excited for these. At CES this year, the company announced that Alexa support would be coming to the sleek-ish Android glasses which are currently still in dev kit phase and will likely be hitting shelves for $1,000.

Status: in development, company says it’s shipping to consumers this summer

More details here

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Vue Smart Glasses

The Vue don’t house a display, in fact they’re more like a pair of bone conduction AirPods housed inside a glasses case, they connect to your phone and can give you audio notifications and you can take calls with touch controls and the integrated microphone.

Status: still in pre-order phase, the company says they have more than 25,000 backers

More details here

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Epson Moverio BT-300

The company behind such things as… printers also has been surprsingly active in the smart eyewear space. Epson has focused its smart glasses efforts specifically on designs for drone enthusiasts so that they can have a real-time video feed of their drone’s onboard camera without completely blocking out the world like other drone goggles do. The Moverio BT-300 have a fairly unique design that is far from understated, but hey, these are actually shipping.

Status: currently on sale for $699

More details here

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Rokid Glass

Rokid’s got big dreams but still quite a bit to work on. I got a chance to try the headset at CES last month and there are definitely some early signs of promise, though tightening up the distance between the display and pupil is going to be essential if anyone is going to wear this headset which integrates voice commands with a single-eye display. The Chinese startup has the money to do it now, they’ve just raised $100 million to expand their operations to the U.S. and expand their work on Glass.

Status: in development

More details here

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ODG R8

Not necessarily the most understated look of the smart glasses here, but ODG has always thrived on crisp optics and solid build quality and that’s the case with the R8 glasses. They are definitely one of the more high-powered of the headsets listed here. We first heard about the R8 glasses at CES last year, but the SF startup has stayed rather quiet on the status of this pair of glasses built for early-adopter consumers.

Status: company says it will be shipping to first wave of developers in winter (this winter).

More details here

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Intel Vaunt

The glasses are some of the most sleek we’ve seen, it’s the result of a lot of the heavy-lifting being offloaded to the phone but also the result of some pretty cool display technology which reflects a monochrome laser display into your eyeball.

Status: in development

More details here

 

Photo courtesy Vjeran Pavic/The Verge

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Madgaze Vader

Mad Gaze is another startup looking to beat Apple to market in the entertainment-focused AR glasses space. Like others, a big focus is placed on watching traditional movie/TV content and playing games rather than environment sensing. The form factor is pretty straightforward though it definitely could be smaller.

Status: in development, company says it hopes to start shipping this April

More details here

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Garmin Varia Vision

Sexy the Garmin Varia Vision is not, but the company’s cycling focused-gadget is an interesting addition to the world of smart glasses. The device isn’t integrated into a pair of glasses, you simply attach the device to the frame of your existing glasses and adjust the display arm so you can see maps and performance data in your line of sight.

Status: shipping now for $399

More details here

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LaForge Shima

This one is just a render though the company has some bulkier prototypes. The LaForge Shima promises a display and camera built into a package that is focused on promoting stylishness thanks to an architecture that leaves room for a lot of personalization in terms of design. The small startup already has hundreds of pre-orders but is still looking to raise more cash as it approaches the daunting challenge of getting its AR dream off the ground.

Status: still pre-alpha, looks like a long shot, but pre-orders are going for $590

More details here

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Daqri Smart Glasses

Daqri may be one of the few AR unicorn startups, but it doesn’t seem to have any explicit consumer ambitions, rather focusing on enterprise customer needs. The Daqri Smart Glasses mark a much less bulky design than the startup’s earlier more helmet-like headset, this $5,000 system includes a headset, as well as a belt-worn compute pack that boasts an Intel chipset making this a fairly powerful offering.

Status: currently shipping to enterprise customers for $5k

More details here

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Solos

Another pair of cycling glasses. The Solos follow a similar design approach to Google Glass in terms of the display, but cyclists offer a market where a HUD is actually pretty useful and an arm you can push out of the way gives you a good deal of freedom.

Status: in development, should be available for $499 in first quarter of this year according to the company

More details here

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Google Glass (Enterprise Edition)

Of all of the glasses on this list, the most famous (or infamous) of these is undoubtedly Google Glass which was introduced four years ago and has received a ridiculous amount of attention. They were a bit ahead of their time, but they actually still live on in their more fitting enterprise use case where they’ve seen some upgrades to the hardware that have made them much lighter and more comfortable.

Status: available now for enterprise partners

More details here

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Everysight Raptor

One more pair of cycling glasses. These ones add a bit of heft on the front of the glasses but add the ability to snap photos. The device purportedly has an 8 hour battery life.

Status: for sale, but by invitation only at $499

More details here

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Snap Spectacles

This month-long sensation took the world by storm and didn’t leave much in its wake. Though Snap’s first shot at hardware gathered a lot of attention for the company’s service, ultimately they ended up taking a pretty big hit from lower-than-expected sales.

Status: $129 on Amazon

More details here

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Magic Leap One

The company has promised a form factor that will one day be the size of a pair of sunglasses, but for now the design leaves quite a bit to be desired. The Magic Leap One appears set to be a pretty high-powered system whenever it eventually launches. For the time being, we’re left with few details on the space age goggle company that billions of dollars have been pumped into.

Status: “shipping in 2018”

More details here

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