Google Glass may have been deemed a failure, but there's no doubt that it gave the world our first real taste of what our AR-filled futures could be like.
Israel-based startup Everysight is hoping it can fare much better than Google with its Raptor smartglasses that are built just for cyclists. It's been working on augmented reality smartglasses for the past 15 years - first as a division of a Israeli military company making heads-up displays, then as its own entity. So the team know a thing or two about what it takes to build them.
Essential reading: The best AR and smartglasses
Everysight is hoping its second generation device will have more mass appeal and the decision to open its platform for others to tinker could prove crucial.
Sight for sore eyes
The first thing Everysight CEO Asaf Ashkenazi told us about the Raptors glasses was that they are essentially a smartphone crammed into a pair of glasses. And, well, that makes sense. It's powered by a quad-core CPU and runs Android (more on that later). Other key specs include 16GB or 32GB of storage, 2GB of RAM, GPS, GLONASS, speakers and a camera. You've also got a whole bunch of sensors as well, which include a gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer, barometer and proximity sensors.
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So yeah, it's kind of like a smartphone crammed into a pair of light and comfortable cycling glasses. It's also got a touchpad built into the frame for navigation, though you can also do pretty much everything from the companion app. There's a separate remote control too that can be attached to your handlebars to control certain features. So you can quickly turn off the AR display if you need your full line of sight for a part of your cycling route that requires your full attention.
The AR display is a bit like a car dashboard in front of your eyes. The entire display is in green and it'll let you see data like speed and distance. There's also support for third party accessories, like a heart rate sensor to add in another layer of tracking information. Similarly, you can loop in third-party services like Strava to build your own courses and upload them to your Raptor.
The model we played around with was a prototype, but everything appeared to work without issue. There was real-time heart rate data in our line of sight, and we were able to quickly check that against the speed data. Since the entire display is green and has a softer focus, it's easy to stare beyond the display, which takes up about a fifth or fourth of your vision, to still get a good feel of what is actually going on around you.
Think about it like this: if you've worn sunglasses or glasses, the augmented reality element is situated centrally where the top of the frame is in your vision. The UI is simple with all information being thrown at you via colour coded indicators. For instance, if your heart rate is going up at your max level, it'll shift from green to orange to red. If you've set a goal for yourself and you're over performing, you'll see red. If you're underperforming, it'll be orange while green indicates that you're all good.
Everysight employs its own BEAM technology, a OLED-based projector system that, well, beams the display right onto the inside of the lenses. Yes, there's nothing in between your eyes and the regular sunglass lens on the Raptors. That projection is also pretty high quality: You can stare in the sun, like we did, and still see the display pretty well.
There's a camera and voice commands too. So if you want to do some light action cam-like stuff, you can. You can sync footage to your phone via the companion app. Similarly, you can sync music to the glasses in a similar fashion. The speakers actually sit above the eyes, yet the sound travels nicely to the ears (no, it's not bone conduction).
The voice commands are activated by the call sign "Go Everysight" and you can tell it to do stuff like share photos and video. When you do take a video, your AR display will be included in the footage - though in white - so that people can see exactly what you were feeling while recording your footage. It's a bit like a more advanced Snapchat filter.
One of the most impressive features is the Raptor's map app, which makes use of the built-in GPS. As we made turns, it was instantly responsive. If we veered off the route, it turned red to tell us we were going the wrong way. The head tracking is quite impressive as well, so when you turn your head, you can see a little cone signifying where you're looking on your map avatar turn alongside with it.
The map is the killer app of the Raptor. It works so well you could probably do well using it walking around a foreign city you're not familiar with. We only walked it around a block in San Francisco, but Ashkenazi says he was able to use it while roaming around Italy. If you have friends with the Everysight app, you'll also be able to see them pop up on your map.
The road map is bright
Speaking of apps, Everysight has taken the decision to build an SDK for the Raptor. The smartglasses run on Android, which make should make it easy for developers to build their own apps for the Raptor's AR. The team already has an interface, or at least a prototype interface, which they're working on.
When the SDK is ready developers will be able to build all kinds of apps for the Raptor. In our demo, we were able to quickly check sports scores, with links to video match highlights. All you have to do is look at the interface for a couple seconds and your interaction starts, like a video window opening up and playing right away.
You can also scroll feeds and news stories by simply slightly moving your head up or down though that feature wasn't ready for us to test out yet. Finally, there's something a little Minority Report about the Raptors. Businesses will be able to develop experiences that open up when you see them in real life. So if you're walking down the street and see a BMW dealership, their latest offers might pop up after a couple seconds of staring at the building.
There are two classes of AR apps, according to Everysight. There are widgets, which are always placed in your fixed sense. For example, whenever you look left you'll see a Facebook app. Whenever you look right you'll see an ESPN app. Stickits, on the other hand, are based on geolocation. This is the stuff that's always attached to a location, like a coffee shop's menu or a dealership's sign.
None of this is fully ready yet. In our demo all of these hypothetical experiences were cordoned off in an 'app' section of the interface. So you won't really have to worry about all of these advertisements or experiences bursting into your view during cycling.
The future is the big, key word here. We know the Raptor is coming sometime this year, but we don't know when. We also don't know price, other than it'll be "affordable". We also don't even know when the SDK could be ready. What Everysight has here with the Raptor and its SDK is potentially a great wearable for cyclists. While our time with these smartglasses have left us impressed, it's up to the team to make sure that final version delivers and arrives on time.
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