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ODG’s new augmented reality glasses are for normal people (with a lot of money)

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ODG R8 augmented reality glasses

Osterhout Design Group thinks people are ready to start donning hologram glasses. The wearables company, which is known for its industrial and medical heads-up displays, is announcing two pairs of glasses that are geared toward a wider audience. The R-8 and R-9 won’t fool anyone into thinking you’re wearing Oakleys, but they’re relatively compact and cheap — and coming soon after a major fundraising round for ODG, plus a recent partnership with China Mobile’s Migu Video.

The R-8 (seen above) and R-9 glasses (below) are both powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, and they run ODG’s Android Nougat 7.0-based Reticle OS. Like Microsoft HoloLens, they have six-degree-of-freedom tracking, so they can place digital items in real space instead of just slapping a flat overlay across the world. Based on the previously announced Project Horizon prototype, the R-9 is the high-end model, designed to provide more industrial options. It’s got a 50-degree field of view — which is large for augmented reality glasses — with 1080p resolution and a 13-megapixel front-facing camera that can record 4K video.

ODG R-9 glasses

An extension port in the R-9 glasses lets companies attach specialized sensor modules, adding features like low-light vision or improved environmental scanning. At around $1,800, it’s cheaper than either the Microsoft HoloLens or ODG’s more rugged R-7 industrial glasses, which will remain on sale for $2,750. ODG is set to ship R-9 developer units in the second quarter of 2017, with a wider release soon after.

The R-8, aimed more squarely at consumer early adopters, trims down the specs a bit. Its field of view is a more modest 40 degrees, its display has 720p resolution, and there’s no port for expansion modules. But it’s also lighter — 4.5 ounces compared to the R-9’s 6.5 ounces — and cheaper, at under $1,000. It’s also got two 1080p cameras on the front that can capture stereo video. ODG expects to ship it in the second half of 2017.

So what exactly are you supposed to do with these glasses? ODG admits that they’re not “designed to be worn all the time,” but are meant to be carried around for watching movies on a digital big screen, playing games, or using apps. It’s working with 21st Century Fox’s Innovation Lab on experiences that include 3D movies and an interactive augmented reality demo based on the Alien franchise. Combined with the Migu partnership, this provides at least the start of a catalogue, although we’re still waiting to see how well the glasses themselves hold up.