Imagine you are sitting on your couch on a rainy day, you snap on your augmented reality (AR) glasses, and suddenly you are transported to a sunny green hillside with a purple butterfly landing in the palm of your outstretched hand.
Seem crazy? Well, Snap recently released its fourth-generation spectacle glasses that make (virtual) transportations like this happen. This release marks the latest upgrade in Snap’s line of Spectacles, following its previous version, Spectacles 3, which launched in 2020. The new frames feature two front-facing cameras, four built-in microphones, two stereo speakers and a voice-controlled, built-in touchpad.
“So how realistic can these AR experiences really be?” you may ask. The two front-facing cameras help the glasses detect the objects and surfaces that you’re looking at, so the graphics interact more naturally with the world around you.
Unlike past models, Snap’s fourth generation of spectacles aren’t available for consumers just yet. At its virtual Partner Summit for developers in May, Snap announced it will give them directly to AR effects creators through an online application program. Why? Both the product and the consumer aren’t ready for AR glasses because:
Consumers won’t buy products unless there is a use case. Consumers will buy the spectacles for pure entertainment, like why they buy TVs and video games. But to reach the mass market, it will likely take more than pure entertainment. Snap will have more success (and consumers will pay more money) if it launches with content and services, so it makes sense that Snap is releasing this product to 200,000 people who already make AR effects in Snapchat to experiment with creating experiences for the new Spectacles.
There isn’t yet a strong consumer demand for AR glasses. The act of moving and consuming 21st-century digital media simultaneously is an untested use case. I wrote about my experience wearing FORM Smart Swim Goggles, an example of an AR headset. I found that while swimming in the goggles, my vision was a little obscured given the in-goggle display that showed how fast I was swimming. While this AR headset feels safe for a pool, I am not sure how I would feel if I were out skiing, jogging or cycling.
AR glasses depend on connectivity and battery life. Even though these glasses present a hands-free experience, they will need a smartphone for connectivity like 5G. Faster than 4G and better than today’s best Wi-Fi, 5G has more than enough bandwidth to power most AR experiences. Additionally, these glasses need a source of power. One possibility is a battery within the glasses, but that would mean additional weight. As of now, the glasses weigh 134 grams, which is more than double the weight of its Spectacles 3. In terms of battery life, the current battery only lasts for 30 minutes. By comparison, my FORM swim goggles can last for up to 15 hours of swimming.
Waveguide technology is essential for AR glasses because it shrinks the hardware and delivers visual experiences that will wow consumers.
This post was written by Vice President and Principal Analyst Julie Ask, and it originally appeared here.
Be in the know about smart cities, AI, Internet of Things, VR, AR, robotics, drones, autonomous driving, and more of the coolest tech innovations.
Delivered Wednesdays and Fridays
Sign up today