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How Will Xiaomi’s AR Smart Glasses Square Up with Rivals?

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Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi has debuted its Wireless AR Glass Discovery Edition, leading to the company’s first-ever wireless augmented reality (AR) smart glasses.

Unveiled at the Mobile World Congress 2023, the new device includes a trove of innovative features such as a “retina-level” electrochromic adaptive display, lighting adjustment, Snapdragon Spaces tethering, and hand tracking, among others.

With Qualcomm’s industry-leading Snapdragon Spaces platform, Xiaomi can also develop programmes on OpenXR and Microsoft’s MRTK toolkit.

The device also weighs 126 grammes with a lightweight frame comprised of carbon fibre and magnesium-lithium alloys. It also hosts a Snapdragon XR2 Gen 1 processor for offloading processing power, streamlining app functionality for low-latency connectivity between the two devices.

The cutting-edge display also offers 58 pixels per degree (PPD), a micro-OLED screen, and 1200 nits of brightness. Regarding hand tracking, Xiaomi’s latest AR smart glasses boast micro gesture controls, leading to enhanced human-computer interfacing (HCI) capabilities.

These allow users to swipe virtual pages in manuals and eBooks, exit apps, navigate maps, and other controls. Additionally, the head-mounted display leverages its onboard AON camera for gestures and feature control.

Furthermore, Xiaomi’s Wireless AR Glass Discovery Edition smart glasses integrate numerous social media apps like TikTok and YouTube. Its Mi Share-powered function provides large-screen streaming in the smart glasses’ field of view (FoV). The glasses also interact with smart home features to turn off lights, play music on speakers, and other innovative functions.

Analysis of Xiaomi’s MWC AR Glasses Debut

Demond Cureton, Senior Journalist for XR Today, analysing the global smart glasses industry and Xiaomi’s latest offering.

The MWC wrapped up its premier event, which showcases the world’s top innovations in consumer and enterprise technologies. Xiaomi attended this year’s event amid the company’s push for its Go Global strategy.

The new initiative aims to boost its relationships with global partners and expand business dealings for internet services. This aims to achieve greater market shares and increased collaboration with global partners.

Xiaomi’s International Internet Business (IIB) department has also begun liaising with major global tech leaders, upcoming small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and other business partners.

In a statement, Chan Liu, IIB General Manager, Xiaomi said,

“The business value of MIUI hasn’t reached its full potential, as we’re still exploring new markets. We’re very excited to be here in Barcelona to reach a wider audience, and turn possibilities into opportunities for success”

The strategy comes on the heels of reported revenue growth of 17.2 percent year-on-year, or 1.7 billion CNY ($245.1 million USD), in the third quarter (Q3) last year. This has significantly boosted the company’s internet services earnings to 24.2 percent for the same period.

The news comes after Xiaomi unveiled patented magnetic smart glass concept designs. The prototype featured magnetic, compartmentalised parts for detaching and reattaching for greater portability.

The company also revealed concepts for its inaugural smart glasses in September 2021, which featured microLED optical waveguides, a 51-gramme form factor, numerous sensor technologies, and standalone functionality.

Smart Glass Vendors Rise and Fall

The significance of this strategy is that it comes as global tech giants across the United States temporarily suspended their smart glass products to focus on leaner, more conservative research and development (R&D) strategies for mixed reality (MR) products.

This includes industry frontrunner Meta Platforms, who shelved their Project Nazare smart glasses to divert resources to its Quest Pro and upcoming Quest 3 mixed reality devices.

Additionally, Apple followed suit by redirecting efforts to their long-awaited, premium-tier MR headset and subsequent mid-range consumer MR device.

Both companies and Microsoft, Google, Snap, Amazon, and many other US tech firms launched a massive wave of workforce layoffs in recent months to streamline operations. This comes amid diminished support for Meta Platform’s iteration of metaverse technologies aimed at consumers.

This has triggered a focus on both enterprise and potential consumer use cases with long-term profitability. While it is unclear whether Xiaomi will receive such benefits with its smart glasses, its partnership with Snapdragon Spaces could offer flexibility between both sectors.

Spaces can facilitate this by allowing enterprise users to integrate bespoke programmes on Xiaomi’s hardware platform. Additionally, tethering to Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and higher smartphones will improve the device’s range of functionality with enterprise mobile smartphone users, ensuring continuity with company equipment needs.

Firms can offer future-proofing boosts to the smart glasses by pairing them with XR-2+ Gen 1 and higher-tier Qualcomm processor. This eliminates concerns that plague standalone devices, forcing enterprise customers to overhaul their fleet of hardware and equipment.

‘Looking’ Forward

Despite this, Xiaomi faces contenders in the enterprise market, including Lenovo’s ThinkReality A3 smart glasses. These were the first such device to offer Snapdragon Spaces tethering and have established a much longer presence among global workforces with an enterprise-focused offering.

Additionally, other business-focused offerings from Vuxiz, RealWear, DigiLens, Magic Leap, Epson and many other competitors remain more established across the sector.

Therefore, it remains to be seen what Xiaomi’s IIB strategy is with potential buyers. While the Beijing-based firm has created a formidable contender in the smart glasses market, it faces two potential concerns.

Firstly, Xiaomi faces an increasingly saturated market entry point, and secondly, an influx of competitors using Qualcomm Snapdagon’s novel AR2 platform designed to incubate new solutions across the smart glasses industry.

Also, if the company chooses to target consumer markets, it could face the ‘wrath’ of global reluctance to adopt the Metaverse. Meta has already received massive criticism for its metaverse push — therefore, Xiaomi must focus on practical, tangible use cases for its device for consumers rather than future-focused concepts.

Future devices from Chinese tech firms, including ByteDance, Tencent, Huawei, Alibaba, TCL, and Chinese industry leader Nreal will also prove stiff competition for Xiaomi’s offering. On the positive, this will lead to an impressive domestic and global AR device ecosystem, complete with hardware, software, and other solutions.

Conclusions

With rivals leveraging the new low-power, agile platform, this could affect Xiaomi’s global smart glasses advancement. This is offered on the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 1 and AR2 Gen 1 processing platforms.

Users may want to purchase a smart glasses device with less heat output, focused processing, and updated architecture. However, the new headset offers promising specs for delivering consumer-level solutions, and Xiaomi could eclipse consumer markets with its forward-thinking AR spectacles.

The views in this analysis piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the XR Today brand, its partners, or affiliates.

 

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