Why DAQRI’s Smart Glasses are an option for Augmented Reality

Most conver­sa­tions covering Augmented Reality glasses are curr­ently focused on the Micro­soft Holo­lens and the Meta 2 — followed by the rumors around Magic Leap. But there are many more players in the field such as ODG, Avegant and DAQRI. Last week, I had a meeting with DAQRI to get some updates on the product deve­lop­ments and to test their latest smart glasses. Here are some of my impressions.

It is no secret that the Los Angeles based DAQRI has had some ups and downs — big invest­ments and delays in produc­tion. When they started with the Augmented Reality helmet for construc­tion, media picked it up as the new star on the horizon. In the tech startup world we say: ‘they’ve found their niche’. However, the chal­lenges for hard­ware produ­cers are always abundant: whether it is the need for huge invest­ments or the depen­dence on the market being ready for your product. When I tested the helmet for the first time last year I realized that it will take some time until this is a market-ready product, which is the case with almost all smart glasses.

From helmet to smart glasses

We’ve gotten used to testing all rele­vant smart glasses from Google Glass to Epson Moverio as well as ever­y­thing from the Micro­soft Holo­lens to the Meta 2. Since we are crea­ting Augmented Reality appli­ca­tions with our own enter­prise plat­form, the hard­ware produ­cers are often inte­rested in connec­ting their devices to our ecosystem. This gives me a great oppor­tu­nity to compare the diffe­rent head­sets as they come out. I try to be as objec­tive as possible but obviously testing with diffe­rent appli­ca­tions and in diffe­rent envi­ron­ments is some­times a challenge.

It seemed that DAQRI realized that the niche for the helmet is quite small and that the construc­tion busi­ness wouldn’t gene­rate enough revenue. This led to the intro­duc­tion of Daqri’s smart glasses. The specs of the glasses are mainly the same as from the helmet — only the thermal camera is missing. I’ve tried a test version with two diffe­rent scen­a­rios: a visua­li­za­tion of a jet engine and a virtual earth simulation.

Good display, comfortable glasses

The smart glasses have a belt to fix them properly on the head. You can pull it, put it on your head and it auto­ma­ti­cally adjusts the device. There is no need to adjust the belt or the glasses like you do with the Holo­lens. The first surprise: it is actually quite comfor­table. Unlike other smart glasses, it is not heavy on the nose because they only weigh 312g (Holo­lens 579g, Meta 2 500g, ODG R9 189g, DAQRI helmet 1,500g), and the belt does a good job. This is parti­cu­larly important for enter­prise use cases and I see a lot of poten­tial since you can move your head around without losing the device.

I started with the jet engine — a simple scen­ario with a turbine using object gaze to select items. It worked well and I had the second surprise: the display is very clear and bright. With a reso­lu­tion of 1,360 x 768 pixel and a 44 degree field-of-view (Holo­lens <40, Meta 2 ca. 90, ODG R9 50, DAQRI helmet 44) the smart glasses are able to provide good results. If I compare how the content is displayed on the DAQRI device with the Holo­lens, I would say it is more or less the same grade of transparency.

Tracking under construction

No other Augmented Reality glasses have a more stable and precise tracking (SLAM, not talking about object tracking) than the Holo­lens — this also applies to DAQRI’s smart glasses. Unfor­tu­n­a­tely, I could only test the marker tracking but not SLAM. As with most glasses, the DAQRI device doesn’t have an object tracking yet, which is very important for enter­prise scen­a­rios that need to place the holo­gra­phic objects precisely on the real object. I am still surprised that no one of the hard­ware produ­cers is aware of this.

Daqri Smart Glasses

The smart glasses from DAQRI come with a belt pack that contains the battery as well as the proces­sing unit. The battery should last about four hours, depen­ding on what you are doing. Inte­res­tingly, the battery can be changed and a battery pack can be connected while the glasses are still in use. This is not possible with the Holo­lens. The belt pack is connected to the glasses via cable and weighs 425g. In compa­rison, the Holo­lens and ODG R9 are stand-alone devices, the Meta 2 is tethered to a computer.

The doors are open for DAQRI

Overall, if DAQRI solves the tracking issues, adds more options to control the device, like hand gestures or eye-tracking, and lowers the deve­lop­ment kit price of $4.950, there is a big chance to be an important player in the Augmented Reality enter­prise market. In order to reach that, DAQRI has to prove that they’re able to produce and ship the smart glasses. But they are not alone here: the ODG R9s are not avail­able yet, Meta deli­vered a few devices but has a huge order list to work off. All of these players should do their home­work before Magic Leap enters the market at the end of the year. Lets see who uses the time wisely.

Here are the spec sheets for the smart glasses and the helmet.

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