BARCELONA—In our hyper-connected, data-driven working world, augmented reality (AR) headsets are now applicable in more and more mainstream business settings. In industries such as manufacturing, inspection, architecture and design, and medicine, a hands-free, head-up display with overlaid graphics is a game-changer. Microsoft HoloLens is the poster child for enterprise AR, but at CES in January, we saw a slew of business-focused headsets debut from the likes of Lenovo, ODG, and the new M300 and M3000 Smart Glasses from Vuzix.
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Vuzix brought its head-mounted computing devices here to MWC, where we got a look at the updated hardware and specs, and the Android software the new line of smart glasses is running. The M300 (right) and M3000 (left) are a huge step up in design and capabilities from the Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses the company exhibited at last year's show.
The M300's ergonomic design is slight compared to the more heavy duty M3000 glasses. The ruggedized jet black design is like a more mature, business-focused cousin to Google Glass. The dual nose guards give them a feel like regular glasses and a distinct comfort factor during prolonged on-the-job use.
The M300 glasses also sport an adjustable monocular computing and camera module on the right side. Lance Anderson, Vice President of Enterprise Sales at Vuzix, said that adjustable mount—which you can tilt up or down—is a simple but hugely significant feature addition compared to the M100 line, particularly for doctors and field technicians who need to tilt the camera at a certain angle to record hands-on job activity.
The computing module features still and video camera lenses, dual microphones, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, inward and outward-facing proximity sensors, and a horizontal two-axis touch pad for controlling the device along with four Android control buttons. The M300's camera can take up to 13-megapixel stills, and up to 1080p video with auto-focus, optical image stabilization, and flash. There's also an optical hard hat mount for construction or industrial workers.
Vuzix also partnered with wearable power provider GO Puck on an external battery pack that, according to Vuzix, can bring the battery life up to 12 hours (minimum battery life is two hours).
The Vuzix M3000 Smart Glasses are bulkier, but pack a fair amount of additional functionality on top of its full color display. These are the glasses for workers who need more detailed information and higher-res AR graphics overlaid in front of them. The display lens folds up if you don't need it, exposing the normal lens underneath.
Compared to the M300's mHD color display at a 16:9 aspect ratio, the M3000 glasses include a digital light processing (DLP) WVGA color display with a "Cobra" waveguide optics display engine for more precise and higher resolution image quality.
Both the M300 and M3000 glasses run an enterprise version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which syncs to the Vuzix Remote Control Manager app for Android or iOS. Thanks to the built-in GPS and gyrometer, the glasses also send integrated head-tracking data back to the app with the user's location, and the direction and angle of their current view. In order to comply with enterprise IT policies, Anderson mentioned that the glasses also include geofencing security features to turn the camera on and off depending on their location.
Both glasses run on an Intel Atom CPU, and include integrated GPS, 2GB of system RAM, and 64GB of internal flash memory. Voice control is also supported in multiple languages.
In the Field
Vuzix works with small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and enterprises, but Anderson said the sweet spot is organizations with 500-1,500 employees, where it's easier to roll out the glasses in production while staying compliant with IT policies than in large enterprises and multinational corporations.
Early adopters and beta customers using the M300 and M3000 span a host of industries, from retail and point-of-sale (POS) applications to medical, asset management and supply chain, insurance, and industrial-grade manufacturing.
Anderson gave a couple practical examples of the new Vuzix glasses in the field. For insurance agencies, appraisers out assessing vehicle damage and filing incident reports can use the M300 glasses to quickly snap first-person photos and video while scrolling through driver and insurance claim information. In the medical field, doctors and surgeons can record procedures for case studies with the adjustable camera angles.
On the M3000 side, Anderson said retailers including Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus are testing out the AR glasses in the front end of the store to help staff quickly find inventory. Though in that kind of a retail setting, AR glasses on a worker can still be unsettling for the average consumer. A final, more vivid example application Anderson gave is Boeing. He said engineers are testing out M3000 glasses to optimize intensive design and manufacturing work such as assembling wire harnesses.
These real-world scenarios are still evolving, but wearing each pair of glasses felt like a more natural, lightweight extension of practical AR than strapping into a HoloLens. It's an augmented reality experience that won't distract from workers' concentration or mobility in the field, which in practical terms is what enterprise AR should be right now to drive adoption: simple and convenient with tangible value to your daily productivity.
The Vuzix M300 Smart Glasses are available to pre-order for $499. The M3000 glasses are still in beta with early adopters and not yet commercially available, but Anderson said the glasses should ship wide within the next few months.