AR Smart Glasses: XR Today Expert Round Table


AR smart glasses continue to grow in adoption as a companion to the remote workforce. Global teams are now intricately connected with remote engineers and experts, leading to a streamlined, agile workforce.

Numerous innovations continue to enhance the smart glasses industry for enterprise workers, including developments in hand tracking, device management, software platforms, and interoperability. These are growing an entire ecosystem of solutions and use cases capable of delivering real-world return on investment (ROI) for firms.

For our XR Today round table, we are pleased to welcome:

  • Paul Travers, President and Chief Executive, Vuzix
  • Vishal Shah, General Manager of XR and Metaverse, Lenovo Intelligent Devices Group  
  • Nima Shams, Vice-President and General Manager of Product Business Unit, DigiLens
  • Jona Barcelo, Senior Product Manager, Agora

Our esteemed panellists have discussed the latest updates from their AR smart glasses product lineup, recent developments across the industry, and their views on the state of the enterprise and industrial metaverses.

XR Today: What progress have you made in your AR Smart Glass hardware, services, and solutions?

Paul Travers: Vuzix is one of the real leaders in AR smart glasses solutions because our goal is to provide practical support to improve how people work – now, not just in the future. We’ve come to the point around adoption that clearly shows that workers will not wear something that is uncomfortable or unattractive.

For over 20 years, we’ve been developing the core technology for smart glasses. Years ago, we were working with the US Special Forces and they asked us if we could make Oakley-style AR sunglasses. We called it the Oakley Gate and knew even back then that if you made heavy, bulky devices that looked like one had just stepped of the Starship Enterprise, nobody would use them.

Ergonomics, comfort, practical applications – these are how we drive adoption because people are now wearing our glasses around the clock, so they need to be as light and functional as possible.

We can do this, thanks to a protected portfolio of display engine and waveguide IP, which over the years has enabled us to get to where we are now, with Vuzix Shield and our Ultralite original equipment manufacturer (OEM) platform redefining how people think of AR smart glasses. 

Vishal Shah: The ThinkReality A3 smart glasses are the most versatile smart glasses designed for the enterprise, ever. The solution enhances productivity for the office professional and industrial worker in small businesses or global enterprises, not to mention workers everywhere.

The ThinkReality A3 is part of an integrated end-to-end solution offering that includes not only the cutting-edge AR device, but also ThinkReality software, solutions and services.

Recently, the ThinkReality A3, along with Motorola leading-edge 5G smart phones, has been featured in immersive experiences built for the San Diego Padres and Pantone’s Color of the Year announcement. The activities demonstrate the power of AR to create engaging content that allows fans to participate digitally with brands.

Nima Shams: With ARGO™, we’ve seen 13 years of smart glasses design efforts come to fruition. Our experienced product team has shipped more than 100,000 mass-scalable industrial headsets, and our core optics design team has used their extensive optical knowledge to develop revolutionary 85% transparency, sunlight-readable waveguides, that are both scalable and photorealistic.

Nima Shams, Vice-President and General Manager of Product Business Unit, DigiLens

By combining these extremely experienced teams, we created a set of smartglasses ideally suited for the enterprise/industrial world that requires no external computer or device for operation.

When designing ARGO, we had to innovate on packaging our Crystal30 waveguides, EnLiten30 light engine, and Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ XR2 compute integration to create an industrial-focused device that would pass IP65, ANSI Z87.1 eye-safety regulations, and be MIL-STD-810 compliant.

Now that our hardware platform is stable and scalable, we are investing heavily in our software stack. Hardware is always the barrier to market entry, but it is the software and content that makes the product magical.

Our software team has developed an XR-focused operating system (OS) wrapper called DigiOS, built on top of Android Open Source Project (AOSP) 12. DigiOS aims to enable developers, content creators, and other subject matter experts to build high-ROI applications with proper SDK and application programme interfaces (APIs) on a true, purpose-built, industrial-grade platform.

Jona Barcelo: While Agora does not create hardware solutions, our Real-Time Engagement (RTE) software development kit (SDK) can enable a wide range of use cases, including,

  • Remote collaboration and training: Agora can enable real-time voice chat and video streaming that can facilitate remote collaboration and training sessions for AR headset users.
  • Live streaming: With Agora, AR headset users can live stream their experiences to other users in real-time. This can be useful for events, remote education, and telemedicine, among others.
  • Remote assistance: Agora can enable remote assistance use cases, allowing users to receive real-time support from experts, technicians, or customer service representatives while using their AR headsets.

XR Today: Which AR smart glasses use cases have begun to develop for your clients?

Paul Travers: We facilitate several use cases across industry and medical, with well over 100,000 Vuzix smart glasses deployed and being used in the workplace to date.

Paul Travers Vuzix

Paul Travers, President and Chief Executive, Vuzix

In warehousing and logistics, clients are using Vuzix to solve critical challenges to their supply chain. With Vuzix, workers gain access to back end systems, so pick times come down, counts are correct, and inventory management information is shared in real time with the front line. Employees are not only told what to pick, but also where to find the items, and even how to palletize. This presents a huge time savings and minimizes costly returns.

In the field service industry, technicians on service calls rely on physical documentation or a phone or tablet for instructions. It is incredibly cumbersome for a tech to hold a phone and perform their work, and field workers often need to call on a remote expert for help.

Smart glasses give remote experts a see-what-I-see view of the work, providing step by step oversight through Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom, or some other common application. Field service teams are saving on manpower and costly return trips to a job site because the smart glasses provide the just in time support that helps even junior technicians tackle complex work.

The third major use case comes from the medical field. First responders are now able to share live video with intensive care unit (ICU) staff to prep the attending physician, who can then evaluate the patient’s condition.

In the operating room, surgeons can collaborate with off-site specialists, sharing their view during the operation and getting remote support as needed. This feature also makes surgical training safer and more effective.

In addition, AR-guided surgeries are improving patient outcome rates for complicated joint surgeries through the use of Vuzix smart glasses.

Vishal Shah: With use cases like customized virtual monitors, 3D visualization, AR assisted workflows and immersive training, the ThinkReality A3 helps transforms work across many levels of the enterprise. 

Vishal Shah Lenovo

Vishal Shah, General Manager of XR and Metaverse, Lenovo Intelligent Devices Group

For example, Lenovo ThinkReality is working with Sphere for a workflow solution on the ThinkReality A3. The combined technologies, resources, and partnerships from both companies provides a best of breed immersive offering for deploying live remote assist interactions, self-guided 3D instructions, and intelligent insights for empowering employees and field technicians with contextual problem-solving capabilities. 

Virtual monitors and 3D remote presence solutions are also increasingly popular use cases among our customers. Enterprises are looking to cut costs and emissions by empowering employees with immersive virtual workspaces. For example, a Lenovo customer can provide ThinkReality A3 smart glasses to its C-suite to hold monthly leadership meetings in a virtual space to save the time, expense, and carbon from executive travel.  

For 3D visualization, one of the software partners we are working with is TechViz, a leader in 3D visualization software, to offer a solution to visualize data in AR from computer-aided design (CAD) files used in design, engineering and architecture.

The specially-developed version of TechViz software, combined with the ThinkReality A3 PC Edition, allows users to switch seamlessly from their CAD desktop application to a 1:1 scale 3D representation of their model in AR. 

Nima Shams: ARGO’s key capability is combining body position independence and hands-free computing within a fully transparent, all-in-one system.

Our initial clients are using ARGO to deliver remote expertise, taking advantage of the sunlight-readable, bright display and 48MP OIS and EIS center camera. Other clients are taking advantage of the world’s first AR Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor within ARGO.

It is integrated for inside tracking for visualization of CAD models and mark-based information super positioned at situational areas, such as the blueprint of a building or the 3D CAD model of a transmission or engine in Unity.

We are also seeing major traction from a diverse field of innovative companies that have desperately been waiting for a true enterprise-grade platform that can enable them to achieve high ROI, and breakthrough productivity plateaus they have faced.

Jona Barcelo: To understand the importance of first and third-party immersive applications on AR headsets, we can look at the adoption of smartphones across the world; a technology that transformed the mobile industry by providing users with a diverse range of applications and use cases that were not possible on traditional mobile phones. Third-party applications, in particular, played a significant role in driving interest for smartphones, as they offered new and innovative experiences for users.

Jona Barcelo, Senior Product Manager, Agora

Similarly, the success of AR technology will depend heavily on the availability of a diverse range of immersive applications. While first-party applications can provide users with a baseline set of features and experiences, third-party applications can offer a greater variety of use cases and specialized applications that may not be available in-house. This can drive adoption by offering users a more personalized and customizable experience, and can encourage innovation and creativity within the industry.

Interoperability is another critical factor that makes supporting third-party applications necessary for AR headsets. Common standards and APIs make it easier for developers to create applications that can run across different AR headset models and brands. This promotes a thriving ecosystem of AR applications, making it more accessible for a broader audience, thereby driving the adoption of AR technology.

XR Today: How important is it to support first and third-party immersive applications on AR headsets? How does this facilitate interoperability for the industry?

Paul Travers: There’s no question that apps are the bridge between the user and the hardware. Even the coolest wearable is only as useful as the apps that play on it, and there’s a system component that demands that the hardware be connected to everything from IOT and back end inventory management databases all the way up to the concept of the metaverse.

Vishal Shah: We feel it is critical to support a thriving ecosystem of AR software developers building enterprise solutions. This is why Lenovo partnered with Qualcomm in its Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform for global developers. Snapdragon Spaces offers proven technology and an open, cross-device horizontal platform and ecosystem to bring developers’ ideas to life and revolutionize the possibilities of head-worn AR. 

The first devices to support Snapdragon Spaces became available in June 2022 in a hardware development kit that includes the Lenovo ThinkReality A3 smart glasses coupled with a Motorola smart phone. We look forward to our VR solution, the ThinkReality VRX to be part of this platform as well.  

Nima Shams: The design philosophy behind ARGO is to make the system easy for application and subject matter experts to use and achieve high ROI from the moment the device is turned on. This is achieved through DigiOS, our OS wrapper built on top of Android Open Source Project (AOSP) 12.

DigiOS provides developers with industry-standard APIs to develop and deploy their applications very easily into the enterprise and industrial markets. ARGO is compatible with OpenXR, WebXR, and Android AOSP right out of the box, and its integrated over-the-air (OTA) update system will push the latest industrial-standard functionalities, such as Qualcomm Spaces, which will be launched on the platform later this year.

XR Today: What innovations in AR smart glasses display technology and lens components are coming in 2023?

Paul Travers: Size is always a consideration, and we continue to make advancements that shrink the footprint of our technology, from battery use and efficiency, to gains in lightness and imaging.

To that point, new micro-LED (uLED) projector technologies have been developed that will enable our glasses to last days on a single charge. One such projector has already been integrated into the Vuzix Ultralite OEM platform. Future advancements will bring full color to this extremely compact and power efficient package, which is yet another exciting innovation that we will be bringing to market in the future.

Vishal Shah: Innovation continues to accelerate in the XR industry, which has entered a very exciting time. Lenovo is constantly reviewing new technology components and vendors.

For example, the new ThinkReality VRX includes pancake optics, offering better resolution and being thinner and lighter, as well as full-color pass through.

You’ll have to wait and see what’s in our newest products when they hit the market. 

Nima Shams: With DigiLens’ core technology, we have designed, developed, and scaled waveguides in an amazing and proprietary way.

The DigiLens Crystal30 third-generation waveguides are over 500 nits per lumen (n/L) efficient and incorporate an industry-leading 28mm of eye relief in a massive eye box.

DigiLens’ state-of-the-art waveguides are printed via our contactless copy process, resulting in some of the most cost-efficient waveguides on the market. This enables our partners and us to scale rapidly, and allows our partners to hit targets and price points for their products, which can lead to mass-market adoption.

The Crystal30 waveguides within ARGO are coupled with our own DigiLens EnLiten30 LCOS/LED projector. When coupled with the waveguides, our extremely small form factor projector produces over 2500 nits to the user’s eye, allowing for true sunlight-readable imagery while still maintaining spatial awareness of the real world through its >85% transparency.

XR Today: What are your views on the enterprise and industrial metaverses? How will these drive demand for solutions such as yours?

Vuzix: There’s no difference from our perspective between the internet and the Metaverse. They are different instances of virtual worlds where you can occupy yourself in any way imaginable – whether it’s for work or play.

Our focus is connecting the data in the Metaverse to the real world, where input from a piece of heavy equipment, for instance, can flow to the glasses and enable the technician to perform a fix, without having to hold a manual or phone – the information he or she needs is ready at a glance and spoken command.

The ability to stay focused, call in an expert, and refer to data while keeping both hands free is a huge efficiency driver across industries. It is also just one example of how the industrial metaverse intersects with the real world through AR smart glasses.

Vishal ShahThe enterprise metaverse is already thriving, and in many ways, will serve as a foundation for a much larger and deeper experience consumers will know in the future as the Metaverse. 

Enterprise workers are using the new computing form factors of AR and VR to get things done on the job and create value today. XR technologies are enabling workers to reduce learning and training times while increasing effectiveness, while XR workflow applications help drastically reduce error rates. XR is also helping improve the design of everything by using 3D models and digital twins. 

The XR industry is following the same patterns as other computing form factors before it—the PC and smart phone. In the 80s, office workers tapped and scrolled on PCs long before they invested their own money for a PC in their home. Then in the 90s, workers that needed to stay connected were issued cellular phones, their experience popularized the form factor before smart phones became ubiquitous consumer technology. Now, AR and VR headsets are the latest technology to go through the enterprise crucible before going mainstream. 

If you understand this industry trend, you will also understand that the XR industry is not simply a race to offer the best hardware at the best price but a more complicated enterprise procurement exercise involving getting the right mix of hardware, software and services from a trusted global supplier. This supports Lenovo’s ThinkReality portfolio of XR solutions, because we are built for enterprise. 

Nima Shams: Simply put, XR will empower the next generation of workers.

Broadly speaking, industry has hit a productivity plateau that requires innovation. Technology such as XR can be an essential part of the solution and give a very tech-savvy new generation of workers a productivity boost. We believe industrial uses will drive the initial demand and volume for XR, as well as drive hard-earned ROIs.

What has been missing is not market need or core use cases, but the right platform, in the right form factor, purpose-built for the industrial worker.

Our device is built on over 23 prior generations of industrial headsets and incorporates the key needs of the worker. ARGO provides end users with spatial awareness and clear and wide viewing of what is in front of them and what is in their peripheral vision.

It also incorporates an all-in-one computer, eliminating the risk of cables or other devices being needed or snagged during day-to-day operations. Additionally, our industrial-grade design supports IP65 and ANSI Z87.1 eye safety needs.

Jona Barcelo: Enterprise and industrial metaverses can be used for a wide range of applications, from virtual product development and prototyping to remote training and collaboration, and even remote equipment maintenance and repairs. The potential benefits of such metaverses include reduced travel costs, increased collaboration and productivity, and improved access to resources and expertise. Agora’s RTE Platform provides a suite of real-time communication and engagement tools that can help power a sense of presence by a variety of passive and active users in these virtual environments. Our platform offers high-quality video, voice, and chat features, as well as APIs and SDKs that enable developers to integrate real-time communication into their applications. By leveraging Agora’s RTE cross-platform solutions, enterprise and industrial metaverse developers can create more immersive and engaging experiences that enable remote collaboration and training from any device.



Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.