It's going to take a while for consumer AR glasses to be good enough for us to actually want them, which is why companies like Toshiba are focusing their attention where AR's practicality is more immediate: the workplace. Toshiba has announced its new dynaEdge AR smartglasses, built in collaboration with Vuzix, which essentially stick Windows 10 on your face.
For the pencil pushers, Toshiba's glasses probably won't boost efficiency, but they could be helpful in situations where workers need to communicate remotely, especially where their hands are tied up with something else. The glasses are more "assisted reality" than full AR, overlaying images and video over one eye, all powered by a tiny tethered PC designed to be clipped onto a belt. That PC's the real deal, running an Intel Core M processor.
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"We took all of the processing out of the glass. There's no battery, no radios," Mark Simons, president of Toshiba America told me. That keeps them light, and the battery running for longer, though there is GPS, a gyroscope and compass on the HUD. There's also a touchpad that lets you operate the glasses and swipe through menus, but there are buttons on the attached PC too if you want something more tactile.
One use case Toshiba sees is workers getting remote assistance. Say I was trying to fix something, an expert could see what I was looking at via the built-in camera and guide me through the process. Toshiba built a custom version of Skype for the glasses, and in my demo I was able to call another person in the room and show them what I was seeing. I also took a photo, sent it over to them, and they sent it back with annotations.
The glasses were comfortable in my demo - with some adjustments to get them to a place I wasn't straining my eye to see the tiny display. The AR arm is pretty flexible, and can even be swapped over depending on your dominant eye.
The display doesn't have to sit on glasses either as Toshiba's designed this to be attached to safety goggles, hard hats and more. They don't look trendy, but they're really not meant to. And as AR finds its place in enterprise with devices like this, the faster AR tech will get better and more affordable, which will obviously have a positive impact on consumer smartglasses.
Toshiba believes that running this on Windows gives it an edge as many businesses already use Windows, so they don't have to make changes to their infrastructure. The smartglasses are on sale in a package with the micro-PC right now for $1899.