I’ve Seen The Future Of AR Glasses At CES 2023

Augmented reality glasses are going to be big, and I’ve been given a sneak preview of the technology that will power the glasses from major manufacturers. And it’s astonishingly good.

The Israeli firm Lumus will be supplying the optical engine for at least one set of AR glasses from a household name later this year. The company could not confirm who it is working with, but firms such as Apple, Samsung and Google have been rumored to be lining up product launches this spring.

I was given a sneak preview of the company’s second-generation Z-Lens 2D waveguide technology in a private meeting at CES 2023. The optical engine that will power future products has been shrunk to only a few millimeters in size, making it unobtrusive to install on a regularly sized pair of glasses. You can see me here wearing a prototype device, to get a vague sense of how a final product might look (ignore the trailing wires).

Super-bright display

However, it’s not the physical design of the glasses that’s amazing, but what you can see through them.

The glasses offer a 2K x 2K resolution, and the image is so sharp that you can see individual feathers on a photo of a bird, or read tiny 8pt text clearly.

That, of course, paves the way for watching 4K movies and playing high-resolution games with the glasses too. Lumus showed me an animation of an airship which flew towards me, with smoke billowing out of its engines. As it appeared to fly closer to my face, I could see the background of the hotel room we were sold in through the airship’s windows, demonstrating how the glasses combine both the virtual and real worlds. Imagine, for example, being able to see how a new car would look on your own drive, or how a watch would look on your wrist.

The image from the glasses is not only pin-sharp, but searingly bright at up to 3,000 nits. A white background on a page of text looks as white as a sheet of A4 paper, and unlike some other early AR headsets, the background is uniformly white with no variation in tone. Turned up to maximum brightness, I had to momentarily remove the glasses because it was so eye-poppingly dazzling.

That brightness will be needed to display images when the glasses are worn outside in bright sunlight. And when you’re out and about, those glasses shouldn’t run out of battery quickly, either. Lumus’s CEO Ari Grobman told me that he expected battery life to last between four to six hours. That might not sound great in comparison to, say, a smartphone, but you probably use the augmented reality features constantly.

The prototype I tested had a 50-degree field of view, but Lumus claims that it will soon reach 80 degrees.

The huge potential of AR glasses

Aside from gaming and video, there are a huge number of potential uses for AR glasses. You might, for example, use them as a virtual computer display, with multiple screens appearing in front of you as if you were using regular PC monitors. A simple motion tracker on the glasses would leave the virtual screens in a fixed position as you move your head, meaning you could turn to talk to a colleague next to you with an unobstructed view, just like you would in a normal office.

Out of the home or office, they could be used for enhanced shopping. Walk into a coffee shop, for example, and the glasses could display the various drink options, allowing you to order a coffee without having to queue.

“AR glasses are poised to transform our society,” said Grobman. “They feature better ergonomics than smartphones, novel interaction opportunities with various environments and businesses, and a much more seamless experience than handheld devices.”

Get ready for launch

Although Grobman wouldn’t be drawn on the device manufacturers it’s working with, he said he expected consumer products to arrive on the market in 2024. The company has deals with manufacturing partners who will be able to churn out the Z-Lens chips in their millions.

AR glasses are a product to literally keep a very close eye on in 2023.

Update: This article was amended with revised timelines for the product launches

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