TCL Joins Race for AR Smart Glasses
TCL is throwing its hat into the ring in the race for smart AR glasses, taking on Meta and, possibly, Apple.
For now, TCL’s product is only a prototype but these smart glasses, with their sunglasses-like form factor, represent what many other tech companies in the space are currently aspiring towards.
In the US, TCL is better known for its excellent value TVs. The company is looking to make a quantum leap into the immersive space with new smart AR glasses, the concept of which was announced ahead of CES 2022. In this market segment, TCL will be up against some veteran giants in the niche, including Meta, Snap, Apple, and Oppo, all of which have revolutionary immersive hardware for augmented reality and virtual reality in their sights.
TCL released a teaser video of its smart glasses in various usage scenarios such as dialing into video meetings, taking and sharing photos, displaying turn-by-turn directions over the wearer’s surroundings, using multiple virtual displays for work, or even to start your car. The TCL concept is still a prototype and there is no release date yet. However, the company is hoping to showcase a working version next month around the Mobile World Congress.
The TCL smart glass concept also features a binocular micro-LED color display based on optical holographic waveguide technology for displaying images and information. The waveguide technology is already being used in Augmented Reality smart glasses like Oppo’s recently announced Air Glass. The waveguide technology has also been used in Vuzix and Nokia glasses dating as far back as 2013. The TCL smart glasses also feature a touch panel located on the right side of the glasses and used for navigation. The TCL glasses are powered by a Qualcomm 4100 processor.
TCL calls its concept smart glasses XR glasses which means these devices will blend elements of both augmented reality and virtual reality. Augmented reality display images over the wearer’s real world surroundings. Virtual reality, on the other hand, replaces the real world surroundings with computer-generated images, the fidelity of which depends on the specifications of the virtual reality headset.
TCL’s new concept smart glasses are different from its NxtWear G smart glasses that were designed as wearable and portable 140-inch screens for entertainment. At the CES 2022, TCL also announced a lighter weight version of its NxtWear G smart glasses called NxtWear Air.
It looks like the new TCL prototype has been designed to assume some of the uses to which smartphones and laptops are put into.
The TCL concept looks refined and looks a like a more refined version of the Google Glass which wasn’t too popular with consumers as a result of privacy concerns. Google Glass were first announced close to a decade ago but over that time period, we are yet to see a commercially successful smart glasses pair although there have been more than half a dozen smart glasses launches by various players.
Developing smart glasses is still a challenging prospect due to technological or innovation handicaps. This explains why TCL’s smart glasses are still only in the concept stage at the moment. TCL is still working out the key details about the smart glasses such how its interface should function as well as the types of apps and services for which it would be most suitable. Drawing from the lessons of Google Glass, the company is also looking to address privacy concerns. The company says it is yet to answer the many questions on how its smart glasses will work in the real world.
Immersive hardware is currently seeing strong growth although we are still far from seeing their ubiquitous presence like smartphones. VR headsets saw a 52.4% year-over-year growth in the first quarter of 2021 according to data from the International Data Corporation. The growth was to a large part, driven by VR gaming and fitness apps. The biggest player in the market is meta which reportedly commands 75% of the market according to IDC data.
On top of its TV product line, TCL has also been moving into the smartphone market. Its latest foray into AR smart glasses with the concept shows that the company also has its eyes fixated on what has been billed as the next major evolution in computing which will play a central role in the metaverse.