Wearable tech and augmented reality provider Vuzix is back at CES 2021 with another pair of its smart glasses, this time with a new advancement. The latest pair is powered by microLED technology, thanks to a partnership with the Chinese firm Jade Bird Display. MicroLED displays have emerged in recent years as viable alternatives to OLED screens, driving advancements mostly in the television space.
Yet, the tech in this context allows for ultra small but powerful display projectors to be fitted into both sides of the smart glasses, which, to Vuzix’s credit, look pretty close to something you’d be comfortable wearing out in public on a daily basis.
Combined with Vuzix’s waveguide tech and its display engine optics for mapping the image onto the inside of the glass, the result is an impressive-looking gadget that can project a stereoscopic monochrome or color image onto both lenses at a variety of pixel densities and resolutions, depending on the software requirements.
There are a few other bells and whistles with this device. Vuzix says the device will support Wi-Fi and optional LTE as well as stereo speakers and noise-canceling microphones. There will also be Android and iOS-supported gesture-based touch controls, presumably for controlling companion mobile apps using just the sides of the smart glasses. Unlike Vuzix’s previous $1,000 Blade model, this new version doesn’t have an official product name or a price yet, though the company is aiming for a summer release date, reports TechCrunch.
Of course, given the nature of the virtual CES this year, we haven’t been able to try these smart glasses as we normally would on the show floor, so we can’t say much about the quality of the image, the comfort or design of the frames, or any of the software support. But Vuzix isn’t really targeting the consumer market with a Google Glass-style device, which would necessarily warrant getting an early, hands-on impression of how well they work.
Vuzix’s smart glasses, which are more in the realm of heads-up displays than true AR, are aimed more toward the enterprise, especially after Intel acquired a 30 percent stake in the Rochester, New York-based company back in 2015. The shift toward workplace-focused AR and VR products has been accelerated by slow adoption of consumer-geared headsets and glasses as well as an overall lack of breakthrough advancements in the fundamental tech that would facilitate an iPhone-style moment for the field.
That’s why we’ve seen and heard so little about Microsoft’s HoloLens, the second-generation Google Glass, and Magic Leap’s AR goggles in the years since those gadgets made their splashy debuts, all while Facebook quietly continues pumping money into Oculus and remaining one of the very few large tech companies still actively engaged in VR.
The tepid consumer reception to AR and VR products hasn’t stopped some bigger names from trying their hand at consumer smart glasses. Amazon has since entered the smart glasses market with its Echo Frames, and Facebook is also working on its first pair in partnership with Ray-Ban. Meanwhile, rumors continue to percolate around Apple’s plans to release an AR headset or a pair of smart glasses (or both) sometime in the near future.