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01 Feb 2023

10 AR Headsets and Alternatives You Need to Know About

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Accelerated by the demand from enterprises seeking remote assistance and collaboration tools as well as media and entertainment that strives to enhance consumer experience, AR is expected to rapidly increase its integration pace. With over 7.3 billion mobile users predicted for 2023, the same year the global number of mobile AR users is expected to reach 2.4 billion. Even though today most of us use AR through our mobile phones, in the nearest future we can expect wearable devices to come as an alternative. It is still too early to predict which tech company will be the ultimate leader in AR hardware production, however at this point we can already identify some of the patterns that indicate the directions in which these companies will be stirring.

As the technology accelerates in both software and hardware directions, the buzz around a variety of AR glasses continues, with quite a few competitors like Vuzix, Lenovo, Snap Inc. on the market. Looking at solely AR headsets let’s not forget about the tech producers that develop Extended Reality (XR) and Mixed Reality (MR) headsets, that incorporate AR to digitally overlay real world objects, which could potentially make competition for the Augmented Reality hardware market share.

As the AR hardware landscape continues to expand with new players and devices, we would like to take a step back and look at some of the remarkable, purely AR or AR enabled, headsets. The devices that have been and will be forming the Augmented Reality marketplace up until today and further into the future, the hardware capabilities and their specifications. 

Before we go any further it is essential to identify some of the key specifications and the reason behind their importance. Starting with FOV (Field of View) which indicates the range of visible environment while wearing the device, to eye-tracking that allow to detect users gaze direction and use it to control and navigate through experiences, as well as refresh rate which indicates the number of times the display refreshes per second and how smooth the visual part of the content will look. Let's not forget about the display resolution responsible for image sharpness, clarity and detail, also Wifi and its speed of connectivity which impacts the streaming bandwidth, and last but not least the weight of the device which is essential when it comes to ergonomics and prolonged usability. It is also important to note that some of the purely AR and AR enabled headsets can operate as standalone devices giving them the opportunity to be both mobile as well as work without any additional equipment required.

1. Magic Leap 1 Mixed Reality Headset with AR Capabilities

Magic Leap 1, launched in August 2018, is a powerful wearable computer powered by NVIDIA® Parker SOC, a Mixed Reality headset with AR capabilities. With handheld and hands-free controllers weighing 316g, Magic Leap 1 has a 50° diagonal FOV, 120Hz refresh rate, 1.3M pixels per eye resolution, and Wifi 5 compatibility. The high-fidelity graphics enable to build experience for both enterprise and consumer use, submerging users into immersive world-aware environments. However, the price is still quite steep for average consumers ($2,295 - $2,995), so the device is often used for enterprise-focused experiences. As Magic Leap has announced its partnership with AMD, the high-performance processors producer, we can expect future devices to grow in performance and fidelity. It will be curious to see if Magic Leap integrates some of the acquired new technology into the next generation of enterprise-oriented headsets. The current Magic Leap 1 stands out due to its eye-tracking capabilities and advanced refresh rate.

The second generation of the headset, Magic Leap 2, launching on September 30th, has 70° diagonal FoV, 1440x1760p resolution, 120 Hz refresh rate, and up to 2000 nits brightness. The device has Dynamic Dimming, eye-tracking capabilities, voice input, gesture, and hand tracking, weighing 135g. It is a more powerful, higher visual fidelity and FoV, yet a lighter alternative to Magic Leap 1. What is especially noteworthy is the dynamic dimming that allows control of the amount of real-world light entering through the headset, making it more suitable to work with holograms.

2. HoloLens 2 Standalone Mixed Reality Holographic Device with Enabled AR Capabilities

HoloLens 2, launched in November 2019, is one of the heavier (566g) standalone, self-contained Mixed Reality holographic devices with enabled AR capabilities. Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 Compute Platform, it comes with 2k 3:2 light engine resolution, 6DoF (degrees of freedom) tracking, 52° diagonal FOV, 1080p30 video, and Wifi 5 compatibility. The device enables fully articulated hand tracking that allows one to interact with holograms in a natural and intuitive way, supporting voice command and control and eye-tracking. Even though HoloLens 2 was originally positioned as an enterprise-grade headset, with a purchase price of $3,500 USD, it is rumored that the next generation HoloLens 3 will be consumer-oriented to compete with tech giants like Apple and Lenovo who plan to launch their versions of consumer AR devices. 

We still need to hear the official launch date. While some resources report that we can expect it to launch in March 2024, others say that we should only have our hopes up in February 2025. While we wait for the next generation device, the current Hololens 2 has significant advantages in being a standalone device with enabled eye-tracking. 

3. Nreal Light Consumer & Enterprise Aimed AR Glasses

Nreal Light, launched in August 2020, are lightweight (106g) consumer and enterprise aimed AR glasses. With 6DoF spatial tracking, 52° diagonal FOV, Nreal Light has a 1080P single-eye resolution display and combined light guide optics. The AR headset has integrated plane detection as well as image recognition, accompanied by dual speakers and microphones enabling spatial sound. Nreal Light includes spatial commuting cameras as well as ambient light and proximity sensor. The Computing Unit that comes with the Nreal Light Developer Kit, is powered by Qualcomm® SnapdragonTM 845, supporting Unity SDK it is aimed at developers, providing them with an opportunity to transform or re-develop their apps for the AR device. The AR headset was priced at the regional launch in Korean for approximately $586 USD, with Developer Kit previously shipped at $1,199 USD. Nreal Light glasses should definitely be noted for their high display resolution as well as light weight. 

4. Meta Quest 2 VR Headset

Meta Quest 2, formerly known as Oculus Quest 2, launched in October 2020, up until recently, has been considered a VR-only headset. However, in July 2021, Passthrough API Experimental was announced, a new system that allowed expanding device capabilities towards MR and AR. The system is promised to be available with the upcoming v31 SDK update. Meta Quest 2 is an All-in-One VR headset with inside-out tracking, 113° diagonal FOV, and 6 DoF. Powered by Qualcomm® Snapdragon XR2 Platform, the device has 1832×1920px per eye resolution, 72Hz refresh rate, integrated audio, and Wifi 6 compatibility. Priced starting from $299, Meta Quest 2 is positioned for both enterprise and consumer use. Even though Meta Quest 2 has only begun giving developers the opportunity to explore MR and AR, it is still a remarkable standalone device with high FOV, display resolution, refresh rate, and next-generation Wifi compatibility. 

5. Varjo XR-3 Extended Reality Headset

Varjo XR-3, launched in December 2020, is an Extended Reality (XR) headset that is considered amongst the top currently available immersive devices with highest visual fidelity, which also includes AR capabilities. The enterprise grade headset (weighting 594 g + headband 386 g) with full bionic display has 1920x1920px per eye focus area resolution, 146° diagonal FOV as well as 90Hz refresh rate. LiDAR powered depth awareness allows for 3D world reconstruction with pixel-perfect real-time occlusion. Photorealistic device comes with Varjo inside-out positional tracking and eye-tracking. The enterprise grade headset is compatible with a number of 3D platforms and software like Unreal Engine, Unity, OpenXR 1.0 and many more. Even though Varjo indicated the device to be compatible with a large variation of Windows 10 desktop computers, the device has complex system requirements in order to connect and operate as well as deliver stable results. Varjo XR-3 is available for enterprise purchase at $5,495 USD for the device and starting at $1,495 USD for a one-year subscription. Varjo is without doubt one of the most advanced capacity devices with both highest diagonal FOV and display resolution accompanied by eye-tracking.  

6. Snap Next Generation Spectacles AR Glasses

Snap Next Generation Spectacles launched in May 2021, are wireless lightweight (134g) developer-oriented AR glasses powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 Platform. Leveraging 26.3° diagonal FOV and GPS capabilities, the AR glasses have 480x564-pixel per-eye resolution and incorporate hand, surface, and marker tracking. Even though Snap Next Generation Spectacles are conveniently wireless, their current battery life is up to 30 minutes on a single charge, which could have posed a challenge if the AR glasses were also aimed at consumers. Lens Studio's expansive ecosystem integration allows for developers' real-time building and interaction with their creatives. Even though there was a potential to turn Snap Next Generation Spectacles AR Glasses into a consumer-aimed device, the product didn't reach a point of becoming one of mass consumption. As the AR glasses are not meant for consumers, no direct price was communicated for the device. Immersive experience creators could only request the headset. This standalone device is both low-weight, has one of the highest refresh rates, and is equipped with GPS.

7. ThinkReality A3 Smart Glasses

Lenovo ThinkReality A3, available from August 2021, the enterprise aimed lightweight (130g) smart glasses that tether to a laptop or mobile workstation. The AR device was announced to be available in two editions, ThinkReality A3 Industrial Edition and PC Edition. Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 Platform, the AR glasses feature a stereoscopic display with 1080p per eye resolution, 47° diagonal FOV, voice, image, object recognition, and head and gaze tracking. The AR glasses aim to transform enterprise work environments and advance productivity while delivering seamless user experiences. ThinkReality A3 provides opportunities to access 3D visualizations or even immersive collaboration and training from any location worldwide. Priced at $1,499ThinkReality A3 considering its lightweight brings forward a relatively high display resolution. 

8. Lynx R-1 Mixed Reality Headset

Lynx R-1, anticipated to kickstart at the end of September 2021, had its first shipment on December 9th, 2022. An all-in-one Mixed Reality (MR) headset combines AR and VR capabilities. The device is powered by Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ XR2 and has a Dual 1600x1600 LCD resolution, 90° circular FOV, 90Hz refresh rate, and positional- and hand-tracking. The headset supports Android 12, Unity 3D, and OpenXR SDKs and is Wifi 6 compatible. The device incorporates two integrated B&W cameras for positional tracking, two IR cameras for hand tracking, and two RGB cameras. Kickstarted at $499, Lynx R-1 is an enterprise-level device with a full price of $849 for the stand-alone edition. The stand-alone device is also worth noting for its Wifi compatibility.

9. Rokid Air AR Glasses

Rokid Air, launched December 26, 2021, are portable lightweight (85g) AR glasses with 1920x1080 per eye resolution, 75Hz refresh rate, 4K Display, voice control AI, adjustable focus, HD directional speaker, as well as two noise-canceling microphones. The 43° diagonal FOV optical display offers a 120'' immersive display, providing quite a FOV for AR experiences. Even though the AR glasses must be tethered to a power supply, they are compatible with many devices, including PCs, laptops, mobile phones, and game consoles. The two HD directional speakers provide a more immersive experience. Rokid Air is priced at $319,99. The device combines a high display resolution with lightweight. 

10. Nreal Air AR Glasses

Nreal Air, announced in September 2021, was released on March 4, 2022, and is yet another pair of AR glasses that appeared on the immersive technology marketplace. The pair of smart glasses is lighter than its predecessor Nreal Light, weighing only 79 grams. The device has a large projection display, ideal for binge-watching content, with a 46° diagonal FOV and up to 72Hz refresh rate. As the main aim of the device is to aid its users in watching tv, the micro-OLED chip-powered AR glasses have a 201″ virtual screen. The device does not include either motion tracking or inside-out tracking capabilities for privacy reasons. However, it is equipped with an "Adjustable 3-Step Rake System," which can be used to adjust the angle of view. Priced at $379, Nreal Air is a pair of AR glasses that stand out due to their lightweight.

Image Source: Nreal

In Conclusion

The pace of expansion of the AR market landscape doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, with tech giants and smaller players striving to develop and deliver next generation wearable devices for both enterprise and consumer use. We are bound to see AR hardware producers focusing more on visual-fidelity, connectivity and ergonomics of the next generation devices. It will be equally exciting to see how fast the technology will advance alongside with what additional capabilities and opportunities it will bring to its users in the nearest future.

Learn more on how AR can enhance business and consumer experiences from our portfolio or by contacting us

Authors: Alex Dzyuba, Lucid Reality Labs Founder & CEO | Anna Rohi, Lucid Reality Labs Senior Marketing & Communications Manager

Article Last Edited 26 May 2023.


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