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Despite a market strewn with earlier chess frames, Lenovo introduced smart glasses on Sunday that can make spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations seem like they’re hanging.
The company, which is launching the new device for business travelers and remote workers, hopes it has finally cracked the code on smart glasses. Many companies have tried to develop sci-fi tech over the years, but none have made much headway due to clunky designs, bad screens, high prices, and privacy concerns.
More famous still, Google launched its Glass project in 2012 with a pair of glasses that included a camera and a small projection area in the lens for messages and notifications. But consumers were outraged by the privacy implications of glasses that could surreptitiously record video.
Google ended the consumer effort in 2015, although it pursued the project on a more limited basis intended for companies.
Most recently, startup Magic Leap spent a decade trying to develop a set of augmented and virtual reality glasses. But the company failed to find a market for its $ 2,300 glasses and laid off half of its workforce last year as founder and CEO, Rony Abovitz is gone.
The Lenovo glasses, unveiled at the annual CES electronics show, which takes place online this year, feature speakers and a microphone so users can talk with colleagues or request information from a digital assistant. They also have a camera to transmit the video.
In terms of style, the glasses look rather cheesy. Their thick black rims are thick and heavy compared to regular nearly 5-ounce glasses.
Lenovo dubbed the new ThinkReality A3 glasses, a nod to the company’s famous line of ThinkPad laptops. They are supposed to go on sale in the middle of the year at an undisclosed price.
Connected to a Windows PC or mobile phone by a USB Type C cable, the A3 glasses can be used to project up to five virtual screens visible only to the user. A user can work on a spreadsheet or watch YouTube videos on a Windows desktop seemingly floating in front of them in the air. They would still need a mouse, trackpad, or keyboard to control items on virtual screens.
At least initially, the glasses only work with Windows computers and Lenovo’s Motorola mobile devices, not Apple’s line of Macintosh computers or iPhones.
In 2019, Lenovo entered smart glasses by introducing a much larger standalone model called the ThinkReality A6, which doesn’t require a connected PC. Then last year, the company launched a virtual reality headset called the Mirage VR 3 which is similar to Oculus Quest 2 from Facebook or Vive from HTC.
Lenovo’s initial goal with the A3 was to provide a virtual workspace for business travelers on the go. But that shifted attention somewhat during the pandemic, which cut off most travel. “A year ago, we were targeting business travelers,” said Mike Lohse, Lenovo senior product director for commercial AR and VR. “But it’s also very useful for people working from home who can’t put two or three large monitors on their kitchen table.”
By connecting to a mobile device, the A3 glasses could become more useful as lightning-fast 5G mobile networks spread. These networks allow users to transfer data up to 100 times faster than an average 4G connection, perfect for delivering virtual reality images to someone wearing Lenovo’s new smart glasses outdoors.
Perhaps trying to avoid some of the privacy concerns of its predecessors, Lenovo describes the A3’s main camera as intended for “remote expert use cases,” with an emphasis on sharing the wearer’s sight with another person not on site – not to take embarrassing videos of unsuspecting viewers. .
Despite the failure of smart glasses from other companies, Lenovo executives say their new glasses are both better performing and more useful. The A3 has a Qualcomm integrated processor, but it also relies on the additional computing power of the connected PC or mobile device, said Nathan Pettyjohn, commercial AR / VR manager at Lenovo.
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