Augmented Reality (AR) technology has a variety of applications across different industries. Depending on the specific application, the strategy of choosing the right AR devices is different. Knowing what fit your specific business needs and the entry cost are some of the first steps for successful adoption of the AR technology.
In this review, we will focus on comparing the suitable applications, cost and practical aspects of various AR devices that are available on the market today, for enterprises and businesses usage. The review is mostly based on our own actual interaction and use of the devices, combining reviews from communities such as tomsguide.com and wearable.com.
We will not focus on the category of smart glasses for consumer use and applications. What’s the difference? The main consumer applications right now are mostly delivering 2D / text based information or digital content into your field of view. Most of the times, these information won’t change based on what you are looking at. For example, weather and your heart rate are independent of the streets and signs in front of you.
Depending on your business needs and applications, there are several main AR devices to choose from for enterprise uses. The 3 main factors to keep in mind are: 1) flexibility to customize and tailor to your application; 2) price point; 3) usability and comfort level.
1. The most convenient devices – Smartphones and Tablets
Convenience and comfort drive most people’s buying decision. Mobile devices remain the most convenient and affordable choice for adopting AR technology in enterprise applications. Leveraging the facts that most people are comfortable using screen functions on mobile devices, and most people already have these devices in their pockets, this is the best strategy for most businesses to start AR adoption. Developing applications using mobile devices is the most versatile option with many powerful and flexible platforms for both IOS and Android. Whether it is object recognition, content overlay, 3D visualization, or 3D object interaction, mobile devices provide the best user interface experience today.
Price - $0-$999
Pros – No upfront investment on devices, convenient and comfortable to use
Cons – Require users to use at least one hand to hold or operate
2. Market leader of AR headset – Hololens
If your application requires users’ both hands to be free, then Hololens is a great choice and has a lot to offer. Functions like hand gesture control and camera view sharing are useful for the users to do other work with their hands and have remote expert’s assistance, among other capabilities. Microsoft platform is suitable for main stream software development. The criticism of the Hololens since its inception has been around the limited field of view and high price point.
Price - >$3000
Pros – Versatile wireless AR headset with advantages of hands free applications, 3D visualization and spatial computing
Cons – limited field of view and high price point
3. An ambitious mixed reality headset – Magic Leap One
Magic Leap One’s launch was highly anticipated in 2018. It has three major hardware components: the headset, the hand controller and the light-pack (a separate processor). It has a lot of features packed, including hand tracking, eye tracking, 6 degree of freedom (DoF) controller, environment scanning and meshing, etc. Magic Leap’s own operating system and app platform require developers to build specifically only for Magic Leap, which is not transferrable to other devices. The platform has yet to see more developers using the device and exploring its capabilities.
Price - > $2,300
Pros – high technical specs and features that combine both AR and VR capabilities
Cons – limited availability and own specific operating system
4. Lightweight Smart Glasses - Google Glass Enterprise Edition
After Google Glass consumer version came out a few years ago and failed to gain mainstream traction, Google retooled its AR headset as an enterprise focused product. Google Glass Enterprise Edition has similar design as the original, with a light weight frame and a small transparent display lens. It also has some upgraded hardware, longer battery life, better WiFi, faster processor, etc. If the application does not require much real object recognition, tracking and overlay, Google Glass is a less expensive option for some applications that require hands free. Displaying digital information such as 2D text or procedure prompts could be useful for warehouse workers and assembly line workers.
Price - ~$1500
Pros – light weight, simple design, less expensive
Cons – limited applications, small display window
5. Comfortable Rugged Smart Glasses - Vuzix M300
Vuriz M300 is specifically designed for enterprise applications. If the application requires users’ hands to be free, but does not require much real object recognition, tracking and overlay, Vuriz M300 is another less expensive option. It has very good memory storage size (64G) and compatible with Android and IOS.
Price - ~$1500
Pros – Good memory size, compatible platform
Cons – short battery life (~2 hours), small display window, limited applications
To discuss how AR can help your organization’s training applications, job performance supporting strategy, or to experience a real demo yourself, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.