Interesting AR and VR Tech Found Around the Edges of CES

Among the sea of copycat and incrementally-improved AR and VR headsets being shown at CES, a few stood out because they either executed the potential of existing technology particularly well or they are developing a tech that could help advance the industry. We had the opportunity to check out a wide range of compelling products including MAD Gaze’s Vader AR glasses, the Pimax 8K Series HMD, the Vision optical engine by Lumus, ThirdEye’s hardened AR glasses for industrial and other uses, PinMR tech from LetinAR, the XTAL HMD from VRgineers, and Viewpointsystem’s lightweight tethered eyeglass frame.

The following overview provides a few details regarding the standouts that ETC’s Phil Lelyveld, George Gerba, Erick Moen and Kaitlyn Chu found while walking the smaller booths on the CES show floors.

MAD Gaze looks like another Chinese knock-off company, and they very well may be, but their Vader AR glasses were very impressive under the demo conditions of CES. The glasses only feature 720p, 30 fps with a 3-hour battery life, but they have a 45-degree FOV and a responsive hand and finger gesture control interface. Removable moderately-tinted sunglass lenses over the AR lenses produce bright AR images with good blacks. The Vader glasses are available now at $769 MSRP.

The Pimax 8K Series HMD displays 80 fps/eye and has a 200-degree FOV. I watched and episode of “theBlu” and was impressed with how clear and bright the image was. The 8K headset alone without controllers is $899. (See more details on the Pimax Kickstarter page.)

Lumus, an Israeli company that develops AR lens systems components, showed its OE Vision optical engine and newest reflective waveguide display, which generates a 1080p image with 7,000 nits brightness. Lumus claims the component will cost “10s of dollars” when manufactured in large volumes. Quanta Computer, a Taiwanese company that manufactures Apple watches, will be producing AR glasses with the Lumus lens by the end of 2019.

ThirdEye showed hardened AR glasses for industrial use that weigh only 6 ounces. They have a 45-degree FOV, 13MP forward facing camera, and “user friendly” APIs for UI and application development. The X Series smart glasses will be available in Q2 2019 for $1,650.

LetinAR is working to perfect an alternative to waveguide and reflected image approaches to AR lenses. Their patented PinMR technology applies the “Pinhole Effect” to tiny mirrors that are embedded within the lens. Each mirror reflects light from a microdisplay into your eye. When you hold the lens, you’ll see it has a visible pinhole patterns. When you wear the lens it has a semi-holographic effect, which they describe as ‘lightfield’ technology, but it also has a visible screen door effect. LetinAR’s tech is still very much a lab project, but it could yield interesting results.

The XTAL HMD from VRgineers is a large form-factor but lightweight 5K VR HMD that touts automatic IPD adjustments and built-in Leap Motion trackers to track your hand and finger motions. It is currently being used primarily by the European auto industry (clients include BMW, VW, Porsche) for visualizing new model design. McLaren is using the XTAL to train race car drivers. VRgineers is marketing this $5,800 HMD to businesses rather than consumers.

Viewpointsystem is showing a lightweight but tethered eyeglass frame than synchronizes and overlays the capture of eye movement capture of the image being looked at in a 360 environment in near real-time. Noninvasive eye trackers in the bridge of the glasses capture eye position. A forward-facing 13MP 60 fps camera captures the world being viewed, while sensors in the frame capture 6 DOF movement.

The glasses are light because they are tethered and all the processing is being done in the connected computer. Use cases include focus group data for interactive 360 immersive design projects because you can see in near real-time what the person is looking at, and LBE where an action is triggered when enough people look at an object. The company is working on capturing pupil dilation and micromovement data to capture emotion data, but they did not want to speculate on when that would be ready.