Over the years, smart glass design has come to market in various flavors, from the futuristic sci-fi look of Google Glass, to the sunglasses style of Vuzix Blade and the old school trendy style of North’s Focals. But DigiLens hopes to bring something new to the augmented reality (AR) hardware table with its unveiling at CES today of DigiLens Crystal, frameless and CPU-less smart glasses arriving in 2019 at under $500 (£395).
DigiLens Crystal Specs
|CPU||None - powered by smartphone|
|Field of View (FOV)||30 degrees|
|Battery Life||Connected to a smartphone: over 5 hours|
|Weight||Under 3 oz. (under 85 g)|
With no CPU of its own, DigiLens Crystal smart glasses weigh “less than three ounces,” Chris Pickett, CEO of DigiLens told Tom’s Hardware. Instead of saddling the smart glasses with a processor, DigiLens developed a way for the hardware to use a smartphone connected via a USB-C port for power, video and running apps. Pickett said that because the smart glasses tether to a smartphone, “we can offload the weight of the batteries and most of the electronics to the phone itself, reducing an AR application down to the creation of a smartphone app.” The smart glasses have to be connected to a smartphone to work, since the phone provides the battery, processor and memory needed to run applications. Think of DigiLens Crystal as a hands-free companion to the phone.
The startup thinks it has an advantage over other smart glass competitors, such as Vuzix and Microsoft's Hololens, by eliminating the need for heavy processors and batteries or tinted lenses. It’s promoting the glasses for both indoor and outdoor use and for gaming and social apps, as well as for education and workers in logistics, manufacturing and maintenance.
DigiLens says DigiLens Crystal has room in gaming applications, for example, especially as smartphones, low latency 5G and voice-activated game capabilities bring more attention to interactive social gameplay. And in trucking, a DigiLens Crystal-based head-up display can use precision-based tracking for a panoramic FOV display offering information like directions or pointing out a dockside freight location.
Aesthetically, the DigiLens' Crystal glasses are more passable than some other AR/mixed reality (MR) alternatives, with their half-prescription-glasses, half-safety-goggles look. But one deterrent may be the 30-degree FOV. The Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality glasses currently have a FOV of 35 degrees, which is often its most criticized feature. And if you connect the glasses to a smartphone, that five hour battery life won't get you through a full work day, and there are inherent limitations in requiring the glasses to be hooked up to a smartphone to work.
DigiLens Crystal smart glasses will be available to consumers and to OEMs as a fully integrated reference design platform by late 2019. DigiLens licenses its technology for manufacture and sale by other companies. Its current partners include Texas Instruments DLP Pico Products, Young Optics of Taiwan, a waveguide manufacturer and Malata of China, an ODM and electronics supplier.