Augmented reality headset tech is well and truly moving quickly in 2019! There are way more AR/XR/MR headsets around than people realise — and some are actually affordable! Here’s my list of headsets worth keeping an eye on in 2019.

A collage of the headsets mentioned in the article below

There’s a whole lot of AR headsets around in 2019

1. Microsoft HoloLens 2

HoloLens 2

HoloLens 2

We’ll start with the successor to one of the most well-known headsets — the HoloLens. Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 was released this year and has a larger field of view (Field of view (FoV) is how wide your augmented display can place things over your vision), more balanced weighting, eye-tracking sensors, improved hand tracking, a brighter display and (my favourite feature) the front visor flips up! It also reportedly has a new, custom Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) with an AI coprocessor (it’ll be able to do machine learning calculations to assess its surroundings, those hand movements, advanced speech recognition and such all on the device!).

Release Date: Available for pre-order now

Field of view: 52° diagonal (3:2 display)

Cost: Starts at US$3500

Resolution: 2K 3:2 light engines in each eye

Weight: 566g

SDKs available: Unity SDK, DirectX

Pros: Has an AI coprocessor, larger field of view than first HoloLens, hand sensing built in with ten-point touch interaction, you can lift back the visor like a welding mask rather than taking it off every time!

Cons: Not quite the dramatically higher resolution some of us had hoped for, still quite expensive

2. Magic Leap One

Shaq wearing the Magic Leap One

You know you want to look as cool as Shaq here

Magic Leap is the big player that had been crazy secretive and has had a whole tonne of funding from big names like Google, Warner Bros and Lucasfilm. It works a bit different than most of the others, as it uses light field photonics. These generate digital light at different depths — so you can focus on different levels of AR and have them blur when you’re not looking at it (yep, it has eye tracking!). Apparently, in version one, this isn’t as noticeable (but they say it is one of those things you only notice if it’s not working?). I’m hopeful that future versions will have true light fields where you can genuinely focus on further away objects in a more noticeable way.

Similar to nreal and DAQRI (mentioned further down), it uses a compute pack that you’d clip on your clothes that runs all the processing — but a shoulder strap option is also available for those wearing clothes without an easy spot to clip it to.

In terms of hand tracking, it appears to be limited to eight pre-defined gestures — but has a 6DoF controller too that you can use as well. Overall, their focus at the moment appears to be more entertainment focused, compared to a stronger enterprise focus for the HoloLens 2.

Link: https://www.magicleap.com/

Field of view: 40° horizontal, 30° vertical and 50° diagonal

Cost: $US2295

Resolution: 1280 x 960 per eye

Weight: 345g

SDKs available: Unity, Unreal Engine, LuminSDK (their own C based SDK)

Pros: Portable and light, has eye tracking, big names are already working with them (such as the NBA!) and so has some interesting content on the way, plenty of developer SDKs to use

Cons: The light-pack which has all the processing power is connected to the headset via a wire, so not quite as self-contained as the HoloLens 2, still quite costly (but slightly less than the HoloLens 2!), not the same level of light field magic as we’d hoped

3. Project North Star

Leap Motion's Project North Star

Leap Motion’s Project North Star

Leap Motion has brought their 180° hand tracking sensor into an augmented reality platform of their own! They were recently bought by Ultrahaptics, but this acquisition reportedly will not stop Project North Star from continuing (great news)! They are not currently producing the headset themselves, but are instead open-sourcing it. If you’ve got a 3D printer, you can 3D print a whole lot of it!

The team at Smart Prototyping are now providing a way to buy a headset too — either just as a kit or as a kit assembled for you! I think there are other groups out there preparing ways to get the headset out to people as well. If you’d like a chance to build your own AR headset from scratch and really get to understand the concepts behind it — Leap Motion’s option is definitely a great choice. Some components are currently a bit hard to source but now that options like the one at Smart Prototyping exist, this hurdle shouldn’t be too hard to get past.

The potential for the technology is looking pretty darn brilliant, even at this early stage! They made a very neat ping pong AR demo with it:

Link: http://blog.leapmotion.com/northstar

Field of view: Over 100° field of view

Cost: About US$499 assembled (you can get things way cheaper if you’re willing to do some of the DIY yourself!)

Resolution: Two low-persistence 1600×1440 displays pushing 120 frames per second

Weight: Unknown!

SDKs available: Unity SDK

Pros: Solid field of view, open-source, appears to have really good hand tracking

Cons: Not as straightforward as buying a headset with a full platform ready to go like HoloLens or Magic Leap, cannot understand your environment quite like HoloLens/Magic Leap

4. Nreal Light

The nreal light

Nreal’s goal is creating a lightweight headset that is like wearing a pair of glasses. They’ve got it pretty darn light at 88g, but do so by offsetting the processing to a CPU device you can either clip to your pocket or keep close to you with a neck strap. In the end, that’s quite similar to Magic Leap’s approach but they’ve got a smaller form factor. The more compact and foldable nature of this headset might make it easier to carry around with you and could get mainstream society a bit more excited about the tech. This is the sort of headset style I expect Apple to announce, so it’s neat to see another company jumping to it first! I’m heard that nreal have other cool things in the works for future headsets too, so this is a company to keep an eye on!

Link: https://www.nreal.ai

Release Date: Consumer Kit in late 2019, Dev Kit in September 2019

Field of view: 52°

Cost: Consumer kit $499, Developer Kit $1199

Resolution: 1080p per eye

Weight: 88g headset, 170g CPU pack

SDKs available: Unity and Unreal Engine SDKs on the way

Pros: One of the lightest options in 2019, portable, dual microphones, stereo speakers, vivid display, magnetic prescription lenses, ability to do SLAM tracking

Cons: I’ve heard the headset can fall off your nose (the team have since adjusted the design from the looks of it, so it may have improved), not a lot of developer docs publicly available yet so hard to know what’s possible

5. Focals by North

Focals by North

100% the first ever AR headset available that looks genuinely like actual glasses — no bulky shape, no futuristic spaceman feel… these are glasses I’d genuinely walk around wearing. I’d be tempted to travel to the US just to get a pair of these.

They’re controlled with a wearable ring called the Loop, which is a pretty neat and subtle controller! Their display is smaller and more suited to simpler notification-style uses, and — due to the way its display tech works — you’ll need to be specifically fitted for a pair to ensure they’ll work right for you.

Link: https://www.bynorth.com

Field of view: Unknown so far

Cost: From US$599.99 (prescription lenses cost an extra $200 and there are other add ons you can get)

Resolution: Unknown

Weight: 85g

SDKs available: Java-based Android development with Android Studio

Pros: Portable and light, has Alexa built in, looks like actual glasses, speech to text, controlling via a ring is a neat idea

Cons: Only available in Toronto and Brooklyn (with pop-up showrooms occasionally), requires an in-person fitting, no camera (could be a pro for some!)

6. Varjo XR-1 Developers Edition

Varjo XR-1

Varjo XR-1

This headset is the successor to the Varjo VR-1, a VR headset from the same group which has human eye resolution. This one has dual 12mpx cameras located on the headsets front plate turning it into an AR headset. The goal — photorealistic augmented reality by putting virtual imagery onto the camera image so that it looks genuinely real rather than a hologram. The idea is that you cannot tell what is real and what is virtual. That’s pretty darn exciting!

They’ve also got eye tracking which they claim works just as well for people who wear glasses. They claim the headset’s latency is so low (<15 ms) that you can explore mixed realities just as you would experience the real world. They’ve partnered with Volvo to use the headset in design studies allowing the team to see what design elements would look like in the car completely virtually.

Link: https://varjo.com/xr-1

Release Date: Second half of 2019

Field of view: Theoretically – a full field of view as they do not do AR within a window, but instead simulated on top of a camera image

Cost: Unknown but the VR-1 was US$6000

Resolution: 1920 x 1080 low persistence micro-OLED and 1440 x 1600 low persistence AMOLED.

Weight: 1065 g without a counterweight (including headband), 1315 g with a counterweight

SDKs available: Unknown

Pros: Eye tracking, high resolution, unique approach to AR, full field of view

Cons: Likely to be expensive, tethered to a PC

7. BOSE Frames

BOSE Alto and Rondo frames

BOSE Alto (first two) and Rondo (last two) frames

BOSE has a unique approach to AR — audio focused AR! Their glasses don’t do visuals at all but provide an immersive audio experience instead. They look like normal sunglasses but they have miniaturised Bose electronics hidden in the temples. They have their own Bose AR platform that apps can be built upon and currently can do things like navigation, audio-based games and even a virtual golf caddy. That AR platform is also available in BOSE headsets including “Bose Headphones 700” and “QC35 headphones II”.

Link: https://www.bose.com/en_us/products/frames.html

Field of view: N/A as it’s only audio

Cost: US$199.95

Resolution: Only audio

Weight: 45g

SDKs available: SDK for iOS and Android, Unity SDK

Pros: Very compact, looks like sunglasses, has an SDK ready for developers to use, big name brand putting their weight behind a different AR approach, way more subtle than a screen overlay on your world

Cons: Android apps are still under development

8. Vue

Vue frames

Vue frames

These are the same concept as the BOSE Frames and are all audio-based but their Kickstarter dates back before BOSE came onto the scene. Their headsets are lighter and they have some that look like regular glasses (and you can get them with prescription lenses). You can pre-order a pair of these if you weren’t part of the Kickstarter, but I’m not sure when they’re sending them out. These are exciting to me because of how light they are and how subtle these look. There’s no bulk in any part of the frames from the photos I’ve seen.

Link: https://www.enjoyvue.com

Field of view: N/A as it’s only audio

Cost: US$249

Resolution: Only audio

Weight: 28g

SDKs available: During the Kickstarter there was a mention of an API for developers but I can’t find it!

Pros: Super compact, choice of either regular glasses with prescription or sunglasses, lighter than the Bose ones, subtle audio like Bose, works with both iOS and Android right now

Cons: No easy to find API, less of an app ecosystem emerging than Bose

9. Google Glass Enterprise Edition

Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2

Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2

Google Glass is still around and definitely deserves a spot on this list — even if solely for managing to continue to spread around industry despite tech articles always claiming it is dead and gone. You’ll need to work through a Glass Partner to get a pair by this point now though. Developers can apply to become Glass Partners too.

The general gist of what these can do is notifications, live stream what you’re seeing to others, overlays with text/image info and so on. The video below shows their approach at the moment:

Link: https://www.google.com/glass

Field of view: Not too big, just a notification area

Cost: “Cost can vary based on the software customisation, customer support and training you need”

Resolution: 640 x 360

Weight: About 46g

SDKs available: Android Open Source Platform

Pros: Definitely portable, you’ll get a lot of support from Google, good for enterprises

Cons: Cannot do immersive AR, doesn’t have depth cameras… etc, not quite as feature rich as other headsets here

10. Tilt Five

Tilt Five

Tilt Five is a really fascinating focus for AR headset — tabletop games! You’ll be able to play augmented reality board games (yes, even multiplayer with others wearing the headset too), or watch streamers play board games right in front of you. They work by being connected to either a phone or a computer. It’s very much like the original Meta 1 concept video (for those who’d remember that!) but that’s their focus for the whole platform right now. They have stereo speakers and a microphone built in. For interaction, they use a wand, but also have a camera in the glasses dedicated to tracking such things as hands, tangibles, playing cards and so on. The headset is apparently the revival of CastAR (which came from Valve), but with a focus on tabletop gaming.

The headset itself is very different to others — the display isn’t on the lens of the headset. The headset actually hides two small projectors which project the image onto a retro-reflective film on a pad on the table. So the pad on the table itself is the display!

Release Date: Register to be notified on their site

Field of view: Not sure how it’ll look through the headset yet!

Cost: Not yet announced

Resolution: Unknown

Weight: Unknown

SDKs available: Will work with Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 5.5+ (get in touch with them here if you want to develop for the platform)

Pros: The projector approach is a different one that could work really well with tabletop games, has both Unity and Unreal support, multiplayer support with their SDK by default is exciting, glasses aren’t too bulky!

Cons: Still a lot unknown about the platform, use of a wand is less natural than hand tracking

11. Atmos Extended Reality DK 1

Atmos Extended Reality DK 1 headset

The Atmos Extended Reality DK 1 headset so far

There’s not a whole lot of info out there just yet for this headset, but it’s an exciting concept — this team are looking to build a headset that focuses on WebXR — no coding in C# or C++, no Unity… all just via HTML and JavaScript. They’re looking to have a web development environment where you can code your VR web apps inside the headset.

Link: https://github.com/atmosxr/atmos-dk1 (they also have a Discord)

Field of view: Unknown

Cost: Unknown

Resolution: Unknown

Weight: Unknown

SDKs available: All WebXR focused

Pros: WebXR means no software installs, everything is web-based, great to see a team looking to focus on the web’s VR and AR

Cons: Too early to tell a lot about the headset but there’d be a lot of native apps which wouldn’t run on this platform – so it’s very specific to WebXR

12. MIX-2

MIX-1 headset compared to the MIX-2 headset

MIX-1 headset compared to the MIX-2 headset

The MIX-1 headset was a Kickstarter project that aimed to create AR glasses that were compatible with SteamVR applications — so you could use them for both VR and AR. With the MIX-1, you can play VR apps in AR (the dark backgrounds in the apps will appear transparent) — it has two different visors, one clear and one black, so you can use it with VR apps without seeing the outside world too. The headset is modular, so you can add hand tracking and eye tracking, along with a bunch of other features.

They also aimed to have one of the largest fields of view out there at 96°. Since their Kickstarter and Indiegogo efforts, they had a few roadblocks in getting custom parts which delayed their expected 2018 release. However, they’ve come out of those difficulties with a smaller form factor and a larger field of view at 108°!

They also have modules for hand tracking, inside-out tracking and eye tracking. It also has a 3 DoF controller if you have an app that needs a controller instead of hand/eye tracking.

Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/805968217/mix-the-smallest-ar-glasses-with-immersive-96fov

Field of view: 108°

Cost: Up to US$1328 estimated for an all-in kit once new pre-orders begin

Resolution: 2400 x 1200

Weight: Unknown

SDKs available: Works with existing SteamVR SDK

Pros: Hand tracking, inside-out tracking, eye tracking with an ability to do VR and work with SteamVR apps that already exist! Small form factor with a big field of view.

Cons: Uncertain release date, not sure whether it’ll have SLAM or anything like that for AR applications, no similar operating system yet for running Windows apps or anything yet like the HoloLens (so, it might not be quite the same screen replacement concept initially)

13. Vuzix Blade

Vuzix Blade AR headset

The Vuzix Blade AR headset

The Vuzix Blade is often compared in media coverage to Google Glass — it is the same general concept providing a way to make calls, receive notifications, get on-screen directions, a wearable camera… etc all in an overlay over one eye. Vuzix has done so using a custom version of Android that pairs to your phone.

By this point, with options like the Nreal Light above — the Vuzix Blade doesn’t quite compare as it’s more focused on notifications and such rather than SLAM based tracking of the world around you. To me though, they look a bit less obtrusive still than the Nreal Light — largely due to how much the Nreal Light sits in front of your nose.

They weigh the same as the Nreal Light, but without a wire or CPU pack. A lot of the reviews I’ve seen of these have been incredibly positive. For someone looking for a simpler form of AR that just subtly adds things to their field of view throughout their day, the Vuzix Blade AR headset would be perfect!

Link: https://www.vuzix.com/products/blade-smart-glasses

Field of view: Unknown so far

Cost: US$999.99

Resolution: Unknown

Weight: 85g

SDKs available: Java-based Android development with Android Studio

Pros: Portable and light, 8 megapixel camera with 1080p video would be pretty handy at times, their earlier headsets have a pretty populated app store with both consumer and enterprise apps, has Alexa support!

Cons: It is more of a heads up display-style AR headset compared to the HoloLens/Meta-style headsets (but for some this could be a pro), no Unity or Unreal Engine SDK so harder to port to other platforms, no in-built stereo sound (you’ll need Bluetooth headphones), once the Nreal Light is released these may seem a bit pricey

14. Vuzix M400

Vuzix M400

Vuzix M400

Vuzix also has the M400 on the way which is more like Google Glass in form factor (and if you order one of those as an early adopter, they’ll give you their older M300XL in the meantime!).

Link: https://www.vuzix.com/Products/m400-smart-glasses

Field of view: 17° diagonal

Cost: US$1799.99 in early adopter program (where you get the M300XL first and then the M400)

Resolution: Unknown but they say it is an nHD colour display

Weight: Weighs less than 3 oz (less than 85g)

SDKs available: Java-based Android development with Android Studio

Pros: Portable and light, 12.8-megapixel stills possible with the camera with 1080p video sounds good, their earlier headsets have a pretty populated app store with both consumer and enterprise apps, has Alexa support!

Cons: Similar cons to Vuzix Blade but it does have an internal speaker

15. Avegant Lightfield

Avegant Lightfield headset

Avegant Lightfield headset

The team at Avegant put together a headset that uses light field tech similar to Magic Leap, allowing you to focus on different distances and such. Unlike the Magic Leap though, they are using light fields to their full potential with the ability to focus on elements further away… etc.

It also currently needs to be plugged into a PC. The Avegant light field doesn’t appear to be aiming to make things look totally real in your environment just yet (Magic Leap hasn’t managed that either) — things are about 50% transparent in the view but the different depths you can focus on might make the AR way more immersive.

Avegant’s goal is to make a headset design that hardware makers can license — so it’s not quite at the pricing scale that regular developers can get into yet. It’s absolutely amazing that they’ve managed this so far with a fraction of what Magic Leap has in funding!

Here’s what the actual display looks like through the headset:

Avegant Lightfield example display

Avegant Lightfield example display

Lauren Goode from The Verge had a good look at the Avegant Light Field headset prototype, here’s the video:

Link: https://www.avegant.com/light-field

Field of view: Unknown

Cost: Quite expensive when I enquired!

Resolution: 720p per eye

Weight: Unknown

SDKs available: Will use Unity

Pros: Ability to focus on different depths like Magic Leap were aiming to do is really exciting, good to see they’re using Unity as other Unity AR apps should be able to be ported to the platform, really impressive that they’ve managed to do some of what Magic Leap is aiming to do but without anywhere near the funding!

Cons: Not quite ready for casual developers yet, details are still a bit sparse as it is early days

16. Lumus DK-Vision

Lumus DK-Vision

Lumus DK-Vision

Lumus is a company that specialises in making really good optic displays. Top of the range ones. They also have been putting together quite a few reference designs for partners to use to build their own AR displays. They have a range of similar headsets that look closer to a pair of sunglasses in size (see below) but the DK-Vision looks more like a HoloLens style headset.

Lumus’ display tech was originally designed to be used outdoors, so its ability to show visuals in bright environments is apparently quite good. It all runs on Android and they say they’re looking to update it to Android 7 (Nougat) which seems a bit outdated by this point?

Link: https://lumusvision.com/products/dk-52

Field of view: 40° full overlap

Cost: Unknown but you can request a dev kit from their website

Resolution: 1080p

Weight: Unknown

SDKs available: None, only hardware is provided but it runs Android

Pros: Crisp and bright visuals that can work in daylight, the design allows for prescription glasses to be worn at the same time

Cons: It doesn’t have the same object and depth detection capabilities as the HoloLens, will be a tad expensive, might not have quite the same ecosystem as HoloLens or Magic Leap, no Unity or Unreal Engine SDK so harder to port to other platforms — better to use as a reference design if looking to develop your own headset range. Also, unless their docs are outdated, uses an older version of Android from 2017.

17. Lumus DK-50, DK-51, DK-52

Lumus DK-50 with Tobii eye-tracking

Lumus DK-50 with Tobii eye-tracking

Here are Lumus’ displays that are more like sunglasses. They also announced a partnership with Tobii last year to bring eye tracking to the DK-50 headset. The DK-51 appears to be a newer version of the DK-50, and the DK-52 seems to be a simpler one without a camera or processor (just a display that needs the processing to happen elsewhere).

Link: https://lumusvision.com

Field of view: Up to 55° horizontal field of view, 40° top-down field of view

Cost: US$1,500

Resolution: 1080p

Weight: Unknown

SDKs available: None, only hardware is provided but uses Android

Pros: Crisp and bright visuals that can work in daylight, DK-52 could be good if you just want a headset that’ll work with an HDMI input

Cons: Same as DK-Vision

18. ThirdEye X2 Smart Glasses

ThirdEye X2 Smart Glasses

ThirdEye X2 Smart Glasses

When it comes to a headset that has SLAM tracking to understand some of your surroundings, the X2 Smart Glasses are one of the more compact looking out there that can do this and aren’t just displaying notifications and such. They’ve also got GPS, dual noise-cancelling microphones for voice commands and can work both indoors and outdoors.

Release Date: Sometime in 2019, pre-orders are open now!

Link: https://www.thirdeyegen.com/x2-smart-glasses-4

Field of view: 42° diagonal field of view

Cost: US$1,950

Resolution: dual 720p displays

Weight: About 6oz (around 170g)

SDKs available: They mention it working with Android Studio apps, ARToolKit, Unity and others as long as they are built on Android 5.0+

Pros: Seems to be compatible with a lot of SDKs and has its own SLAM capabilities, all self-contained without an extra puck or anything to carry around

Cons: Docs seem to be a bit sparse at the moment, not as much of an ecosystem as Magic Leap and HoloLens but it could build in popularity!

19. ZapBox 2.0

ZapBox 2.0

ZapBox 2.0

While not everyone could afford a fancy VR headset, many of us — including students and cash-strapped developers — looked to Google Cardboard as a wonderfully cost-effective way to get into VR without needing to spend many hundreds of dollars. All you had to do was put in your phone into a cardboard headset! The team at Zappar decided we needed this for mixed reality too and brought us the ZapBox headset.

ZapBox is one Google Cardboard-style AR option that gives great tracking (using the circular cardboard markers), cardboard controllers and a wider field of view using a fish-eye lens you attach! All of that for only US$30!

ZapBox 2.0 is coming soon and is the same concept — but they have a new, much more compact version that’ll be much cheaper to ship (the 1.0 version’s box was crazy bulky!) and looks super cool:

Link: http://www.zappar.com/zapbox/

Field of view: Unsure of exact amount but has a fisheye lens to make it more than the typical camera

Resolution: Depends on your phone!

Weight: Cardboard + your phone’s weight

SDKs available: ZapWorks Studio (no Unity/Unreal SDKs yet)

Pros: Way cheaper to try out, the cardboard controller concept is fantastic

Cons: No Unity/Unreal engine SDK makes it harder to port creations to other AR platforms, tracking can be a bit iffy at times but at other times… it’s really impressive!

20. Aryzon

Aryzon AR headset and box contents

Aryzon AR headset and box contents

Aryzon is a little bit more expensive than ZapBox, but the same concept — a Google Cardboard-style AR headset! Its approach is a different one, providing a clear window to look out of which has the reflected augmented images that come from your phone. They provide a big circle marker that you can use for experiences to be placed on top of, but they’re also working to utilise Apple’s ARKit and Android’s ARCore in their apps now which is pretty cool.

It’s open source and free to use — so you can commercially release apps that work on Aryzon free of charge. If you’d like to give back to the team, you can even order custom printed Aryzon headsets!

Link: https://www.aryzon.com/

Field of view: 35° field of view

Resolution: Depends on your phone!

Weight: Cardboard + your phone’s weight

SDKs available: Unity SDK

Pros: Works with Apple’s ARKit and Android’s ARCore, it is open-source and free to use, able to order customised printed headsets, still very affordable

Cons: I’ve found the cardboard to get a bit uncomfortable strapped onto my skin after a while but they have a new updated version which could be better!

21. HoloKit

HoloKit 1 Developer Edition

HoloKit 1 Developer Edition

This one looks very similar to the Aryzon headset — just in reverse! For US$35, it’s a similar concept but doesn’t seem to have the straps to wear it and such.

They seem a bit more iffy around commercial usage, so if you’re looking to use it commercially, you might want to get in touch with their team. Their code is an open source C++ library and the headset can be DIY built from their instructions for free.

Link: https://holokit.io/

Field of view: They advertise a 70° diagonal field of view, which I think is the same as 35° horizontal field of view of Aryzon

Resolution: Depends on your phone!

Weight: Cardboard + your phone’s weight

SDKs available: Unity SDK

Pros: Works with Apple’s ARKit and Android’s ARCore, it is open-source, reasonably priced

Cons: No strap to use to wear it during use, only open-source for non-commercial use

22. Realmax Qian

Realmax's prototype headset

Realmax’s prototype headset (Source: TechCrunch)

Realmax is a Hong Kong based company that have made a few AR headsets so far, however, the one most worth mentioning is their latest iteration, the Realmax Qian. It uses a Leap Motion paired with a headset with a 100° field of view.

Link: http://www.realmax.com/

Field of view: 100.8° horizontal field of view

Cost: US$1,500

Resolution: Unknown

Weight: 450g

SDKs available: Apps are built with their web-based Realmax Studio platform

Pros: Biggest field of view available this year, has hand tracking from Leap Motion, claims to have 6 degrees of freedom tracking, Realmax Studio can export to ARKit, ARCore and other phones/tablets too

Cons: It doesn’t have the same object and depth detection capabilities as the HoloLens, will be a tad expensive, might not have quite the same ecosystem as Meta or HoloLens, no Unity or Unreal Engine SDK

23. Meta 2

The Meta 2 Developer Kit

The Meta 2 Developer Kit (source: Meta)

The Meta 2 was the option among these which I was the most enthusiastic about last year for two main reasons — field of view and their Workspace concept! However, Meta has since then run out of funding which meant almost all employees were let go. Since then though… they’ve been brought back to life by one of their investors who bought the assets and are re-emerging as Meta View! They’ve hired back a few of the employees and are focusing on “a complete hardware and software solution for a specific use case”. The Meta 2 Dev Kit above will be supported by the company but they aren’t selling any others — so you could have a use for the headset if you can find a used one, but otherwise — wait to see what this new company brings!

The Meta 2 was exciting for these reasons (and hopefully the new hardware they build will share these advantages):

Field of view was pretty exciting on the Meta 2! The HoloLens’ field of view is 30 degrees, whereas the Meta 2 had a 90° field of view horizontally and 50° vertically.

The field of view from the Meta 2

The Meta 2 Dev Kit’s 90 degree field of view (Source: Meta)

The bigger field of view and nice resolution means the headset is actually feasible for things like having many virtual monitors floating around that you can actually see clearly and use! I’ve attempted to use VR for virtual workspaces but the lower resolution often made text a bit too hard to read at smaller sizes. The Meta 2’s resolution makes this actually pretty doable! It is also nice to be able to see finer details in 3D objects.

The Meta 2 had a Workspace feature (the one I excitedly mentioned above) which is Meta’s concept for an AR operating environment that could be a great sneak peek into how we’ll use computers in the near future. You’ll be able to use Windows applications, an AR web browser and custom built 3D interfaces that sit all around you in augmented reality at your desk. I’d hoped that soon we’d wave farewell to our computer monitors and have a whole bunch of virtual ones!

Meta's Workspace in action

A look at Meta’s Workspace (Source: Meta)

Link: http://www.metavision.com

Field of view: 90° horizontally, 50° vertically

Cost: US$1495

Resolution: 2560 x 1440

Weight: 420g (without cable and headstraps)

SDKs available: Unity SDK, OpenVR SDK

Pros: Great field of view, great resolution, can see this platform being used day to day to replace monitors (their Workspace platform that’ll run Windows apps is quite exciting), it’s even available to purchase at Dell’s US online store

Cons: No longer being sold by the company, uncertainty around where the new company will take things, the immersion needs more gestures to become more natural to use (I’m sure they’re working on that!), not a self-contained device (needs to be plugged in), I’m hoping they’ll support Mac OS one day

24. Dreamworld AR

DreamWorld's AR headset

DreamWorld’s DreamGlass AR headset

The DreamGlass is designed specifically for mobile platforms and has a 90-degree field of view at a cheaper price point of US$619. It weighs about 240g, which is much lighter than both the 566g of the HoloLens and 420g of the Meta 2.

It works by connecting to your PC, similar to how the Meta 2 and MIX AR headsets offload computation to your PC — but has the rather interesting feature of being compatible with mobile devices too.

The founder of DreamWorld, Kevin Zhong, was previously Head of Optics at Meta and was involved in a patent infringement lawsuit from Meta — but they’ve settled that suit. The DreamGlass appears to be focused more on the lower-end consumer market, whereas Meta was focused on the workplace.

Link: https://www.dreamworldvision.com

Field of view: 90° field of view

Cost: US$619

Resolution: It’s listed at a 2.5K resolution (approximately 2500 pixels horizontally)

Weight: 240g (without cable and headstraps)

SDKs available: Unity SDK (Experimental (.NET 4.6 Equivalent))

Pros: Works with a phone as well as PC so it can be more like a Google Cardboard-style headset powered by a phone, good field of view, lighter than similar headsets, more affordable than similar headsets

Cons: The SDK is still quite early days, not a lot of documentation yet or details on specs

25. DAQRI smart glasses

DAQRI Smart Glasses

DAQRI Smart Glasses

DAQRI is another group who’ve been at this for quite a while and have built some super impressive headsets! Their latest one has 6-DoF tracking too and relies on an external compute pack that does most of the processing. Their headsets are targeted at industrial/professional use rather than consumer use — but these could be really useful for factories and other hands-on jobs where a headset watching and understanding the environment could be a lifesaver. They have their own very cool platform called “Worksense” which has remote assistance and a whole range of other features.

Link: https://daqri.com/products/smart-glasses/

Field of view: 44° diagonal

Cost: US$4995

Resolution: 1360 X 768

Weight: 335g (with a 496g compute pack that needs to be connected)

SDKs available: Unity SDK

Pros: Uses a compute pack that you can clip on your belt or carry around so that it can be compact to avoid needing a PC connection, has an existing base of companies using it

Cons: Much more expensive than many of the other options

 

 

Those are the headsets I’m currently keeping my eye on!

Which of the headsets above has you most excited? Are there any details (pros/cons) on them I’ve missed that you think should be included? Any headset not included which has your mind buzzing? Let me know in the comments!

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