The race to put a computer on your face is on... after Google Glass failed to catch on almost a decade ago.
The Oppo Air Glass, announced at the company’s Inno Day tech conference today, is more of an AR monocle than AR glasses but it will mark Oppo’s first foray into consumer augmented reality when it launches in China in Q1 2022. The new headset could also arrive several months ahead of Apple’s own heavily rumored mixed reality headset.
It’s over 9,000!!! — The design of the Oppo Air Glass is inspired by feathers and the wings of cicadas according to Oppo. The glass waveguide display (the same display tech in Microsoft’s HoloLens 2) that makes up the eyepiece portion of the Air Glass connects to a frame (in either white or black) that rests on a users’ ears. Inside the frame, there’s a new Spark Micro Projector, a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor, and touch sensors for navigating the device’s user interface and limited set of applications. The whole Air Glass can exist on its own as a sort of Dragon Ball-inspired headset paired with your phone and smartwatch, or attach via magnets to an existing pair of glasses.
Controlling Air Glass — The Air Glass can accept multiple forms of input. There’s the previously mentioned touch capabilities for swiping and tapping through menus. You can also use head nods and head shakes to open and close notifications. Finally, when the Air Glass is paired with an Oppo Watch 2, you can use hand motions “to confirm, cancel, and switch application cards.”
The Spark Micro Projector — which Oppo notes is “about the size of a coffee bean” — is the heart of the device, casting images onto the waveguide display with Micro LEDs that have “a brightness of over 3 million nits,” Oppo says. The images the Spark projects are in grayscale but can vary in brightness depending on where you view the Air Glass. For the functionality the device is launching with, that seems like more than enough.
aR “Assisted Reality” — Oppo is very careful with how it’s introducing the Air Glass. The headset’s AR capabilities (stylized as “aR”) aren’t meant to augment reality with the traditionally colorful and dubiously “immersive” overlays of other devices, Oppo claims the Air Glass instead offers “assisted reality,” not unlike other smart glasses like North’s Focals. At launch, the Air Glass can display notifications, fitness information from paired health apps, calendar events, a personal teleprompter during presentations, glanceable directions for walking or biking, and live translation between English and Mandarin, with Japanese and Korean translation to be added at some point in the future.
The price for the Oppo Air Glass hasn’t been announced, but with Q1 2022 around the corner, it likely isn’t far away. Oppo’s take on augmented reality is the first announcement in what’s bound to be a busy year for augmented, virtual, mixed, and yes, “assisted” reality devices of all kinds as tech companies pivot to find the next big thing.