Plenty of big-name tech giants have tried their hand at augmented reality headsets or smart glasses. Most have failed. That’s not stopping Oppo, however, which announced at its Oppo Inno Day conference today that it plans to release its own pair of smart glasses next year.
The glasses certainly look futuristic, or kind of like a clunky pair of sunglasses — it depends on your fashion sensibilities. Oppo says the glasses will feature time-of-flight (ToF) sensors and utilise simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) algorithms. This is technobabble for stuff that will help gauge and measure distances relative to the person wearing the device. In a tweet, Oppo also highlights something it calls a ‘birdbath’ optical solution. “Through increased sharpness, brightness, and a semi-open rear cavity acoustic design” the glasses will purportedly be able to replicate a home theatre experience akin to watching a 90-inch screen from three meters away. Oh, and the Oppo AR glasses will also support hand gestures.
On Twitter, Henry Tang, Oppo’s “chief 5G scientist,” further clarified that Oppo’s smart glasses would also feature binocular fish eye cameras and be able to perform local mapping calculations in milliseconds. Tang also posted some videos of the glasses’ interface when shopping for furniture, as well as for gameplay.
— Henry Tang (@HenryTangHai) November 17, 2020
According to the Next Web, the glasses will also be able to map 21 points on your hand so users can interact with virtual objects, as well as plug into the Oppo Find X2 phone via USB-C.
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This is all pretty impressive for an initial demo, though to be quite frank, there’s still a lot up in the air, like price and interoperability. Do you have to have an Oppo Find X2 phone to make use of the glasses’ full feature set? How much will these bad boys cost, because even “affordable” smart glasses like Focals by North flopped. Will there be third-party apps? Will they be available outside of China?
There are a lot of obstacles when it comes to consumer adoption of smart glasses. Style is one factor. From the looks of it, these glasses are not as bulky as a bonafide headset like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, but they’re way more conspicuous than what Google’s enterprise-focused smart glasses look like now. This year dealt a death blow to several consumer-focused smart glasses. Bose shut down its audio-only AR division, while the aforementioned Focals by North got killed by Google once it acquired the parent company. Magic Leap hasn’t had the smoothest experience navigating the pandemic either.
Still, it would appear the smart glasses dream is not yet dead. Aside from Oppo, Apple has also been rumoured to be working on both an AR headset and smart glasses. However, we won’t likely see the headset until 2022 and the smart glasses until 2023. Facebook has also gone deep into AR, and its smart glasses — which are being developed in partnership with Ray-Ban — are expected to launch sometime in 2021. Covid-19 has wrought havoc on supply chains, so it’s unclear whether these timelines will hold. But if they do? Oppo’s got some major competition. If it wants to seriously compete, it’ll have to bring out the big guns not only in terms of tech, but also with apps, pricing, and style.