I've tried so many augmented reality headsets, and they're almost always disappointing. Expectations of this tech are high, but look, AR is hard. Think about how long it's taken us to get VR to the place it is today, and how many hurdles it's yet to overcome. AR - and I'm talking the type you're going to wear on your head - has an even bigger basket of challenges.
ANTVR's Mix glasses, which I got to try at GDC, evoked that perfect mix of "Oh that's really cool" and "I really want this to be better". First thing, the headset you're seeing in these pictures is just a prototype; the final product, which goes in Kickstarter next month will look more like something you'd put on your face and less like an unused prop from Minority Report. ANTVR says it'll be the smallest pair of AR glasses with a 96-degree field of view.
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The glasses produce the type of augmented reality that's all around you - like HoloLens - rather than sticking it in the corner of your eye as "assisted reality" glasses like the Vuzix Blade or Google Glass prefer to. That means holograms will stay put, even when they move out of your vision.
When I put on the Mix, I straight away found myself inside Google's Tilt Brush. I didn't immediately recognize it without a background, but the tools were all there, and I started painting giant squiggles in the air just like I've done before in the HTC Vive. And like the VR version, my canvas was all around me. I moved around in a circle painting giant 3D webs using the wireless controllers, the augmented layer anchored in place.
As I was taken out of Tilt Brush app and into Space Pirate Trainer I saw the familiar SteamVR interface, realizing that this was running Valve's software in augmented reality - "Oh that's really cool" - and moments later I was blasting droids away in another game I've played time and time again. Again, the background had been removed, but the guns, enemies and animations were all still there.
Now, all of this sounds pretty neat, but the experience was betrayed by poor visual quality. The AR was pretty blurry, and while some adjusting did get the picture a bit clearer, it has a long way to go. Andrew Li, the product manager, said that they'll be upgrading the display for a sharper image between now and the product launch, which is on track for the end of the year.
As for price, Li seemed unsure, but said the company is targeting somewhere between $500 and $1000. ANTVR already has a few VR headsets for sale, but only in China. According to Li, the Mix glasses will be a global launch. Look out for that Kickstarter next month.