The best AR glasses and smartglasses 2019: Snap, Vuzix, North and more

It's life after Glass for these face gadgets
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Smartglasses are getting smarter and augmented reality specs are finally approaching prime time – and plenty of startups are getting into the space.

It's not just about slapping a camera on your face, either. AR, fitness tracking and mixed reality are all powering the next generation of smart eyewear.

Read this: The future of AR smartglasses

From first-person videos and photos to turn-by-turn directions, health-sensing and facial recognition, the invasion of the smartglasses is very much in progress. Facebook has big plans for AR, as does Apple, and Amazon is making inroads in this space too.

With that in mind, we've donned our future-specs to reveal the best smartglasses on the market – the devices that could well change how we interact with our world and each other. Check them out below.

Best AR smartglasses

North Focals

Buy now: bynorth.com | From $599

The best augmented reality glasses 2019: Snap, Vuzix, ODG, Sony & more

Canadian startup North is taking a more fashion-focused look at AR glasses. Its Focals smartglasses are best described as what would happen if Warby Parker decided to make AR glasses.

It all starts by heading to a North store – there are only two right now, one in Brooklyn, New York and the other in Toronto, Canada. If you're nowhere near those, you can download the North Focals app for a virtual fitting. In person, you'll get fitted for your glasses, and North will use special technology to scan your face and get your ideal eye measurements for the best AR. You can also get prescription lenses.

You get a little ring that you can use to move through the Focals menus. It's a little difficult to walk and look at the same time, but you get used to it. You'll get things like text messages, music and maps, and Alexa is also on board to help you be productive.

North has something special with the Focals, but its biggest challenge is going to be getting them in the hands of people around the country and the world, not just in two cities. To help on that front, North has managed to price these things at well under $1,000.

Vuzix Blade

Buy now: Amazon | $799

The best smartglasses 2017: Snap, Vuzix, ODG, Sony & more

We're big fans of the Vuzix Blade, which is the first pair of really useful commercial AR glasses. They make AR glasses look better than ever, in more ways than one. First, they actually look like a pair of glasses. They're not Oakleys or Ray-Bans, but they don't scream "Look at me, I'm technology" like other smartglasses.

The best way to describe them is that they're a lot like the first generation of smartwatches. They're a good first step at getting a lot of advanced tech in a decent package – but there's still work to do. There is a next-gen design that's coming with a sleeker look, however.

There are still a number of apps that aren't ready yet. We got to try out things like music control, a camera, an image viewer and some games, and since then Vuzix has launched a live-transcription app, among others. Some of the other stuff is available in preview only, and still has work to go. These include the Alexa app. Vuzix is also working on getting streaming services on board, as well as a version of Yelp and mapping.

The display is really good, with even photos looking crisp and vibrant. There's also an 8MP camera on board, with 4GB of storage to fill up with what you want. As for battery life, we were able to get around three to four hours.

The Blade AR is maybe the best move toward mainstream AR glasses we've seen yet. The best bit? Vuzix has worked to lower the price from the original $1,800 down to below $1,000, just like it said it would.

Solos

Buy now: Amazon | $499

The best augmented reality glasses 2019: Snap, Vuzix, Microsoft, North & more

Solos aims to become a cyclist's best friend. These smartglasses pack in a small heads-up display enabling cyclists to glance at a host of useful data in real time, including speed, cadence, heart rate and power zones. They were supposed to be out in late 2016, but got held up by FCC certifications until recently and are available now.

They'll work with existing fitness apps like Strava and MapMyRide, will offer navigation and they're compatible with Bluetooth and ANT+ devices if you want to pair them with other cycling tracking kit. Solos has already been worn and used by the US Cycling team, so these glasses come with elite athletes' seal of approval.

We've tried them, and on the whole we were pleased with what these connected specs offer when you're out riding. They're lightweight and comfortable and have uses beyond cycling too. If you can stomach the price, then the Solos are worth taking a look at.

Wareable verdict: Solos cycling smartglasses review

Everysight Raptor

Buy now: everysight.com | From Β£549

The best augmented reality glasses 2019: Snap, Vuzix, Microsoft, North & more

Like the Solos specs, Israel-based outfit Everysight has taken its years of expertise building heads-up displays for the military and built its own smart AR smartglasses for cyclists.

With smartphone-like internals, the Raptors use an OLED-based projector system to provide the display, which along with a host of onboard sensors can show mapping data, heart rate information and other ride info.

Essential reading: Cycling with Everysight's AR smartglasses

There's also a camera to offer action-cam-style footage and voice commands to use the specs hands-free. Everysight is now working on encouraging developers to build applications for its platform.

They do cost more than the Solos glasses, but they're easy to use, include a great heads-up display and have the nice addition of workout modes to put those connected smarts to good use.

Wareable verdict: Everysight Raptor review

Epson Moverio BT-300

Buy now: Amazon | Β£549

The BT-300 smartglasses ditch the clunky look of their predecessor, offering a more polished pair of AR smartglasses. The BT-300 is lighter than the previous model and not quite as geeky-looking either.

It uses a significantly sharper 720p HD resolution OLED display, and packs a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. It's also powered by an Intel Atom quad core processor, with Android covering the software bases.

Epson's smartglasses have always been quite business focused, but the BT-300's are a little more fun. There's also a drone edition that you can use to control your DJI drone straight from your specs.

DreamGlass

Buy now: dreamworldvision.com | $619

The best augmented reality glasses 2018: Snap, Vuzix, ODG, Sony & more

Currently only offered as a developer kit, the smartphone-powered DreamGlass brings a resolution of 2.5K, a 90-degree field of view, 1080p RGB camera and built-in 6 degrees of freedom gesture control.

And by offering compatibility with Unity, this is one device that could legitimately become a cost-effective option for developers to build from. It's one to keep an eye on for the future, but for now you can get a better look at what the folks at DreamWorld are cooking by jumping over to our first impressions of DreamGlass.

Smartglasses that go beyond AR

Snap Spectacles 3

Buy now: Snapchat | Β£330

The best augmented reality glasses 2019: Snap, Vuzix, Microsoft, North & more

Yes, there is actually a third-generation pair of Snapchat Spectacles and this time they're packing an all-new design, dual HD cameras and 3D AR features.

The new Specs come in two colors – cobalt (black) and mineral (rose gold). There's also a charging case to keep the spectacles powered up in between your shooting.

Unlike previous glasses there's dual HD cameras, allowing you to take advantage of 3D filters, effects and lenses for your footage and photos. These photos will sync automatically to your phone and you can also take 3D photos.

The cameras will record 3D footage at 60fps, with 4GB of onboard storage storing around 100 videos or 1,200 photos. The price has jumped up significantly for the latest Snap Specs, so we'll be intrigued to find out if the added hardware will convince more people to grab a pair.

Amazon Echo Frames

Buy now: Amazon | From $180

The best augmented reality glasses 2019: Snap, Vuzix, Microsoft, North & more

Probably the biggest news in smartglasses right now is Amazon's recently announced Echo Frames, which bring its smart assistant Alexa to, well, your face.

Read now: Our Amazon Echo Frames hands-on first look

These glasses don't have AR but they are definitely smart, and they look convincingly close to standard eyeglasses, which is an undeniably important consideration.

They're being rolled out slowly, through a discounted invitation-only system at first, but the possibility of having Alexa always accessible is alluring, and they're light and comfortable to wear, ticking most of the smartglasses boxes.

These could have a major impact on the market, so keep an eye out for people wearing them soon.

Lowdown Focus

Buy now: Amazon | $349

The best smartglasses 2018: Snap, Vuzix, ODG, Sony & more

Toronto-based wearable tech company InterAxon partnered up with the Italian Safilo Group to create the Lowdown Focus, in collaboration with Smith Optics. These are a pair of brain-sensing glasses and/or sunglasses aimed at improving your performance under pressure.

These stylish glasses are packed with sensors that can track brainwaves, eye movement, facial expressions and more. Plus there's a three-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and pressure sensors. It's got real-time biofeedback, brain training exercises and meditation to help you get "in the zone", focus and stay calm when it's showtime.

The Focus are no longer available from Smith's site, but you can still get them at through Amazon if you're interested in trying them out.

Vue

Buy now: enjoyvue.com | $199

The best smartglasses 2017: Snap, Vuzix, Sony and more

Vue's prescription glasses and smartglasses are the product of a $2m Kickstarter campaign that was aiming to ship the smart glasses by July 2017. However, after dealing with some technical challenges, they were then been delayed to June 2018. They finally started actually shipping in March 2019, and Vue has been getting through its fulfilment lists since then.

Again, there's no AR here. Instead, Vue glasses use bone conduction tech so you can use these instead of earphones, as well as a touch interface to control music and calls. They also handle notifications and activity tracking.

We were impressed with the music playback when we saw prototypes last year, and we'll be checking back in with a pair of Vue glasses very soon to see how the final versions stack up.

Level

Buy now: leveltechnology.com | $328

The best augmented reality glasses 2018: Snap, Vuzix, ODG, Sony & more

VSP's Level smartglasses aren't actually the smartest pair of glasses out there. They're essentially light fitness trackers that will give you your step count, miles, calories burned and active time. But they're also nice and stylish, with cute names referencing important inventors that made the Levels possible.

However, what makes them special is that they use fitness tracking not to help you, but to help others. The companion app will give you a point every time you hit your fitness goal. When you get 50 points, you can redeem them for free eye care and a pair of glasses for a person from one of four groups: the homeless, children, veterans or seniors.




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6 comments

  • Derrilin57·

    I'm a disabled musician with brain injuries and memory issues and all I need is to be able to put pdf's up on a cool looking pair of these glasses, no cameras, gps or medicals needed. If they're available already, could someone point me to them. Thanks.

  • Gorillacramp·

    You should have a look at Lucyd, they are working on AR glasses with a blockchain powered app store. Prototype expected in early 2019 with production to follow soon afterwards. lucyd.co

  • Chisco9·

    I've got the Epson moverio BT300, I've got it paired to an external keyboard, mouse and a headphone. I use to check my emails, to fly my drone and I also use it as my skype phone. I also use it to watch YouTube video and films on Netflix. Basically I use it for everything a phone can do. To really enjoy the moverio download all the apps you want from the Amazon app store.

    I'm thinking of getting the vuzix but need to be convinced it can replace my moverio

  • skeptic·

    i'm looking for smart glass that will show me my right visual field while driving: this is due to a medical problem that took out my right visual field. that means i need a camera that either is wide angle or sits on glasses pointing to my right side, or both. With view then placed in front of my eyes. so far i've not been able to find that. don't care about taking pictures or videos nor about being able to project things from internet onto my visual field, although i will accept that if i can get the basics i need. any ideas anyone? thanks

  • Semlan·

    I'm just looking for a pair of glasses that you can apply different visual filters to. Don't want anything else on them just to make sure that they are at an affordable price. Would really appreciate a link or two if anyone know of a pair.

  • richardeth·

    I'm particularly interested in wearable tech that benefits the visually impaired. This seems to be a very real market sector that is being totally overlooked. Visually impaired people are often challenged by tasks that are taken for granted by most people, for example simply taking a walk down the street safely, watching a TV program, cooking a meal; I myself would dearly like to watch my favourite sports team live! Come on you developers out there, I'm your customer, get in touch with me and I'll give you a set of requirements. Let's do this!