AR Glasses

As technology evolves, augmented reality (AR) has gradually evolved from this big, bulky helmet everyone always envisions, to a compact pair of AR glasses, which can support Amazon’s assistant – Alexa, providing great amounts of information at your fingertips. ARPlanet compiled some knowledge on AR glasses to share the wealth.

#010

AR Glasses – A look into Snapchat Spectacles 3

Record AR videos from a first-person POV through dual HD camera lenses

(Image Source: Spectacles.com)

Table of Contents

Spectacles 3 | Snapchat's venture into the AR world

Despite Snapchat being popularised as a social media site, it has always positioned itself as more of a photography company, putting more emphasis on the development of emerging technology such as augmented reality. Snapchat also introduced its new and revamped Lens Studio 2.0 in April 2019, showcasing a series of interesting use cases for the studio, followed by the announcement of its Spectacles 3 AR glasses which eventually launched in November 2019.

Snapchat’s first generation of Spectacles was launched in 2016, and a mismatched launch event resulted in an inventory of around USD 40 million worth of Spectacles left in the warehouse, incurring huge losses for the company. However, this small hiccup did not deter Snapchat from continuing to pursue the AR sector. CEO Evan Spiegel said in an 2018 interview, that Snapchat differs from competitors like Magic Leap and Microsoft, where these companies are trying to build the next generation of technological platform in a comprehensive package covering software, hardware, and all its content. Snapchat is taking a different approach, developing each sector independently from scratch, until they can be integrated into a suitable platform.

According to Spiegel, the focus on developing AR hardware that are less likely to be replicated by competitors (such as Instagram and Facebook), to be up against similar platforms such as TikTok, requires a hardware advantage to create a deeper and more comprehensive user experience. Spiegel believes that AR glasses are unlikely to be a mainstream phenomenon for another decade or so, due to the multitude of hardware limitations. However, he sees a day where these problems are resolved, with Spectacles, positioned as a pillar of the company, with Snapchat spearheading and accelerating the development of AR technology.

Spectacles 3 | Key features of AR glasses

The Spectacles 3 AR glasses are essentially sunglasses, with emphasis on the camera that sits comfortably on the wearer’s face, allowing users to take pictures and record videos.

Not one, but two HD cameras sit discreetly on each side of the frame, allowing users to capture snaps in 3D, creating a sense of depth. Different from its two predecessors, the frame of the Spectacles 3 is made of lightweight stainless steel, and the lenses used are small and round, creating an overall lighter and sleeker appearance. The Spectacles 3 is also available in two colours: “Carbon” black, and “Mineral” rose gold hues.   

(Image Source: Spectacles.com)

Unlike the Spectacles 2, the Spectacles 3 is not waterproof. However, you can add a 3D filter to the real world you see through the lenses, and take a picture or video of the surrounding with the filters. Recorded videos can be as long as 1 minute, which is a big upgrade compared to the previous 10 seconds videos. The internal storage of the Spectacles 3 is 4GB, which can hold up to 100 videos or 1,200 snaps.

The battery life, however, remains similar to the previous versions. You can snap and sync around 70 videos and 200 snaps with each charge. The glasses are then stored in the charging case, taking around 75 minutes to fully charge. The charging case is charged using the USB-C cable, and can charge the device four times before the battery is depleted.

Photos are stored at a resolution of 1,642 x 1,642 pixels; and videos stored at 1,216 × 1,216 pixels. This time, Snapchat offers a new way to view snaps taken through the Spectacles 3 – a cardboard stereoscopic 3D viewer that allows viewers to view the snaps from the perspective of wearing the Spectacles 3, similar to the Google Cardboard concept.  

Unfortunately, there are still certain technical limitations, as the files taken by the Spectacles 3 cannot automatically be synced to the user’s Snapchat account, only syncing when connected to the phone via Bluetooth or WiFi.

The Spectacles 3 retails at USD 360, more than double the price of its predecessors. It is clear that this new generation of Spectacles are not targeted at the majority of high school and college-aged students, which make up a huge percentage of Snapchat’s core users. The design of the glasses is trendier and more avant-garde, targeting a more affluent social class that put more emphasis on fashion and new technology.

The future of AR glasses

If AR really is the focus of emerging technology development, as we previously talked about in our article on AR glasses, more and more major technology manufacturers, as well as new start-ups are investing time and money into the development of AR technology, with many more upcoming competitions for Snapchat. With Google, one of the pioneers in AR glasses also released their third-generation AR glasses – the Glass Enterprise Edition 2 – in May 2019, and Nreal, a Beijing-based manufacturer that developed their own brand of AR glasses – the Nreal Light Devkit.

According to Spiegel, “Spectacle 3 brings forth a new step for Snapchat,” who elaborates that AR technology is another step to integrate real and virtual spaces, so that two worlds are merged into one. The general public’s feelings about the integration of real and virtual spaces are also reflected in the figures, showing that there is still some ways to go before a total integration.

More Articles

#009

AR Theme Park Experience: Shenzhen Happy Valley

Happy Valley theme park brought in 2,000 AR glasses to create a comprehensive immersive experience

AR theme park
(Image source: Shenzhen Happy Valley)

In 2019, from 11th October – 17th November, Happy Valley Shenzhen brought augmented reality (AR) to their theme park. Introducing 7 AR themed areas, 9 thriller experience halls, 2 trendy AR play areas, and 10 performances, integrated with elements and characters from popular movies and mobile games such as Identity V, Eudemons Online, and New Ghost Story, to attract visitors. A large-scale EDM festival “Reality + AR” (真人+AR) was held for 4 weeks, from 18th October – 17th November, giving visitors a chance to experience two worlds coming together in one stage.

The AR experience had a total of 2,000 tickets for sale, retailing at RMB199 (~SGD39), which sold out within half an hour after the park opened up its ticket sales.  

Table of Contents

The Shenzhen Happy Valley AR Experience

(Introduction to the park map. Image Source: Shenzhen Happy Valley)

The AR glasses that players are wearing can detect their current location, triggering the corresponding AR experiences in these particular locations. For examples, players may see Sadako and the Headless Man at the Chaowan Campus, and they can see the Chainsaw Killer and bony skeletons in the Western World. In addition to that, there are various actors dressed as these monsters, scattered all around the theme park, creating a mixed reality experience of virtual and real-world “monsters”, creating more thrill and excitement for the players.

(Booths to collect the AR glasses. Image Source: Shenzhen Happy Valley)

(Image as seen through the AR glasses. Image source: Shenzhen Happy Valley)

The two most popular features of this immersive AR experience are the “AR Orphanage Ghost Story” and the “AR New Ghost Story” experiences. The AR Orphanage Ghost Story unfolds in an immersive 4D cinema, where bizarre events occur, and it is up to the players to solve the mystery and complete the story. The AR New Ghost Story recreates scenes from the original movie, incorporating hidden surprises to discover, transporting players into a new world where the virtual and real-world items are intertwined and indistinguishable.

(AR New Ghost Story. Image Source: Shenzhen Happy Valley)

The AR Doomsday Battlefield creates an immersive AR interactive shooting experience. Players take on the role of sharpshooters, tasked with shooting virtual zombies in front of them. Players use ultimate skills to attack a large surrounding area, or call out shields to protect themselves from incoming attacks, constantly moving, dodging, and attacking, to destroy all enemies.

(AR Doomsday Battlefield. Image Source: Shenzhen Happy Valley)

When fully charged, these type of AR devices can be experienced for around an hour. When the battery is almost depleted, an automatic reminder pops up. In addition to the service booth for the redemption and return of the AR glasses, Happy Valley Shenzhen has also set up 5 charging stations across the park, which is a short 10-minute walk between each charging station. Using a concept similar to the GOGORO electric scooter charging station, players simply need to replace the depleted battery for a new one, and continue enjoying their AR experience.

(AR glasses battery station. Image Source: Shenzhen Happy Valley)

The Shenzhen Happy Valley AR Experience: Behind the AR Glasses

This AR experience was a collaboration between Shenzhen Happy Valley and Pacific Future. The CEO of Pacific Future, Li Jianyi said that there are more AR experiences to be launched in the future, and they are working on incorporating more interactive content.

According to VR Tuolo, the AR glasses launched by Pacific Future have an official Field-of-Vision (FOV) of 52 degrees, a screen resolution of Full HD 1920X1080, and supports gesture recognition, object recognition, AI, 3D human motion capture and other functions. This processor uses Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, with a RAM of 4GB, 64GB storage capacity, battery capacity of 4700mAh, and runs on the AMglass SDK developed internally by Pacific Future. As one of the first large-scale commercial applications of AR glasses, the specifications of the hardware were good, and the event was a running success.

(AR glasses used in Shenzhen Happy Valley. Image source: VR Tuoluo)

AR Theme Park Experience: AR Ghost Ship for E-DA Theme Park

(Image Source: E-DA Theme Park)

There are also examples of amusement parks in Taiwan that have upgraded the theme park experience through the integration of AR. E-DA theme park in Kaohsiung upgraded their 5D Ghost Ship into an AR Ghost Ship, where visitors use the marq+ app to scan the QR code prior to boarding. The mobile is transformed into a radar detector, which help during the exploration of the ghost ship. As they are exploring, visitors receive calls from ghosts, and discover the hidden stories and secrets as they pass through the different cabins.

AR Theme Park Experience: Creating a New Experience

There are many benefits of integrating AR technology in theme parks, these include:

  1. Creating new scenes within existing areas

Through the use of AR glasses or even AR interactions on visitors’ own mobile devices, the existing surrounding areas of the theme parks can become an entirely new world through AR lenses, seamlessly linking real people and objects with virtual ones, achieving a combination of virtual and real-world interaction.

 

  1. Simplifies the navigation process

As theme parks generally occupy large areas of land, there are many indoors and outdoors facilities, where visitors sometimes find it hard to navigate. This is where AR comes in, integrating with Location-Based Services (LBS), not only accurately determining the location of visitors, but also allows visitors to figure out the location and direction of different attractions in a simple and intuitive way – no more getting lost while trying to navigate across the theme park! Visitors can also communicate with the information desk, who can provide real-time answers to any questions they may have.

 

  1. Exclusive events generate hype and interest

The rides in theme parks don’t normally change, and sometimes visitors may be hesitant to return because they have already experienced it before. The launch of exclusive, limited-time events, especially one combined with AR, provides an incentive for return visits to gain a new experience. This also catches the eyes of new visitors, creating new business opportunities.

More Articles

#003

Augmented Reality Smart Glasses – Are they the Future?

What’s the deal with AR Glasses?

Our first impressions of AR glasses are probably from the first generation of Google Glass, announced way back in 2013. It generated an uproar of interest before going public, but was quickly dismissed by the general public after its launch. However, after Google launched their AR glasses, many other companies picked up on this trend, and began development of their own version of the AR glasses. Google can be considered as the pioneer of this technology.

Google Glass (Image Source: Wikipedia)  

Why are corporations investing in the development of AR glasses?

After Google, there have been a multitude of corporations that launched their version of AR glasses. Among them include Microsoft with Hololens, Snapchat with Spectacles, Magic Leap with Magic Leap One, and many more. Apple mentioned that they are working on two AR project, including an AR headset to be released in 2022, as well as a sleeker pair of AR glasses in 2023. Google Glass also launched their second-gen Enterprise Edition 2 in May 2019, and opened it up for direct purchase early 2020. Google also recently bought North, a company focused on building AR glasses, leveraging on North’s technical expertise to continue improving Google’s Glass. According to Google Glass project lead, Jay Kothari, there was “strong demand from developers and businesses who are interested in building new, helpful enterprise solutions for Glass.” It is safe to say that AR glasses are being reviewed in a new light since its introduction and lukewarm reception in 2013.

We predict a future where AR glasses and visual search engines become seamlessly integrated, with AR glasses tapping on to Google’s image search in its seemingly infinite database of information, to provide another convenient method of information search. See an item of clothing you like, and immediately search and compare similar styles, without having to manually search using keywords and descriptions. A visual search may also provide a more accurate search result compared to a manual search.

As we’ve noticed, mobile phones are becoming thinner and more borderless over the years. One reason for this is to reduce the boundary between the virtual and real world. Mobile phone manufacturers strive to make phones borderless, to fulfil our subconscious need to merge the best of both worlds, allowing users to better experience this new, augmented reality outside of the screen of their mobile devices. With this trend, we believe that AR glasses may one day even surpass smartphones in the sense that it allows the user to be directly transported into this virtual environment without being limited to the screens of our mobile devices. AR glasses give users a wider field of information, with the freedom to view and interact with information directly overlaid on real-world items. In the future, we might even be able access AR, switching from virtual reality back to the real world with just a simple click of a button, like how we take a break from our phones by putting it aside. Our smartphones may even be used to control the AR devices, as technology becomes more integrated.

Nreal Light AR glasses (Image Source: engadget)

Current Issues with AR Glasses

1. Privacy

After Snapchat announced the launch of Spectacles – their camera-equipped sunglasses that can easily take photos or videos and seamlessly upload them on Snapchat, YouGov reported that almost 50% of people surveyed worry about being around someone wearing the Spectacles, as they were worried about privacy concerns. Which was partially what the first-gen of Google Glass struggled with, where some corporations have even prohibited the use of Google Glass in their offices.

British TV series Black Mirror touched on this irrational fear in their episode The Entire History of You (S01E03), featuring augmented reality “eyes”, where fragments of their daily lives and people in their surrounding areas are consistently recorded and stored away, ready to rewatch at any time.

2. Price

The first-gen Google Glass cost around US$150 to manufacture, but their market price is almost ten times the cost, at a whooping US$1,500. Although the manpower and hours put in its development is undeniably expensive, the price is too steep, becoming a major deterrent for consumers to purchase the gear to try at their leisure. Now, the second-gen Google Glass retails at around US$999 onwards, which is still a little over budget for leisure use. Perhaps in the future, as smartphones and AR glasses become more heavily integrated, AR glasses may become more widespread, leading to more developers investing in its research and development.

3. Security

When you wear AR glasses, virtual information is overlaid onto the real world, which may cause users’ attention to be distracted. Similar to when you play Pokemon Go, there are constant pop-ups which remind users to pay attention to the safety of your surroundings. AR glasses also have safety concerns in this regard. How AR glasses can prioritize and highlight dangers in the real world is an important question that developers need to answer.

With that being said, many companies are working on development and research in AR glasses now. We are hopeful that these tools will push AR to an even bigger platform, and make it as mainstream as smartphones and smart watches.

More Articles