I’ve been following Vuzix, Holo Lens, and Magic Leap for quite some time. As an enthusiast gamer, I wondered if there are any AR glasses today on the market that can deliver a great AR gaming experience and what can we expect from the leading companies.
HoloLens was the most promising, but it turned out to be very expensive and out of reach for many users’ reach. This prevented it from penetrating into the consumer\s market and hold developers from dedicating themselves to HoloLens development. As of the time of writing, Microsoft HoloLens costs $3,000 for the Development Edition and $5,000 for the Commercial Suite.
I’m sure you can see the problem here. you can’t mass market this product at this price tag. As a developer, would you spend time, money and efforts in developing for this platform?
According to an article on theinquirer.net posted on January 26, 2017, Microsoft admits that HoloLens sales figures are in the ‘thousands’. Although HoloLens is capable of delivering great AR experiences, it’s still very expensive.
That being said, some developers have decided to make an early jump and be the first to developer AR games for the HoloLens. UNIT9 developed a game called Smurfs: The Lost Village, published by AOL Global Partner Studios and OMD. HappyGiant and Tippett Studio developed a game called HoloGrid: Monster Battle, which also found its way into iOS using Apple’s ARKit AR technology. There is Tu-Gi-Oh!, an Augmented Reality multiplayer trading card game developed by GeneralKidd, RoboRaid, a first-person shooter AR game developed by Microsoft.
Although those games are probably very fun to play using the HoloLens, most of us won’t get a chance to enjoy them. Stil, HoloLens remains a very attractive option for AR games, but it mostly limited by its expensive price, very low consumer market penetration and therefore an unattractive platform for AR developers to develop games for.
Vuzix Blade AR Smart Glasses
Vuzix is probably the hottest name right now in the AR glasses sector. Their Alexa-powered $1000 AR glasses called Vuzix Blade work as a standalone headset but it can be paired with an iPhone or Android via Bluetooth and display notifications and other data sent by apps to the Glasses via Bluetooth.
Vuzix Blade can show you notifications, mapping directions, you can control it using voice controls, you can take pictures, stream what you see, record videos, etc. Vuzix Blade works with Android and iOS and although it doesn’t look like those glasses that you would play games on, you actually can play games with it.
You can check out this video by CNET, you can see a guy playing tank first-person shooter with Vuzix Blade. Now that game looks like a game from the late 80s, not one that you would probably want to play.
The question is what can be achieved with the Vuzix Blade Quad-core ARM CPU, probably not much. You can clearly tell that AR games aren’t the main focus of the Vuzix Blade, not in this iteration at least. These AR glasses don’t have object recognition, spatial mapping or any other advanced tracking feature that allows these AR glasses to blend virtual objects with the environment.
So Vuzix Blade is dropped from the list, it’s obviously aimed for enterprises, at least for now, so what other options are there. I mean, there are so many AR glasses, but many of them aren’t designed to provide a similar ARCore/ARKit type of AR experience There are many Smart Glasses on the market like Recon Jet Smart Eyewear is great for athletes like runners and cyclists, Snapchat Spectacles and Power Wolf G1 Smart Glasses are for recording videos. Most smartglasses provide some sort of augmented features, but they don’t have the technology or the computing power to deliver a great gaming experience.
Meta 2 looks like great AR glasses. They cost $1,495.00 (as of the time of writing), half the price of the HoloLens and although they require a powerful computer to work with, they can not just display holographic 3D content, but also allow the user to touch, grab, push and pull 3D holograms. Many say it provides a much better AR experience than Microsoft’s HoloLens does.
The Meta 2 uses position tracking algorithm that uses the onboard computer vision camera alongside an inertial measurement unit (IMU) that records acceleration and angular movement, it gives six degrees of freedom position tracking. Not just that, unlikes some SLAM algorithm, it doesn’t require calibration or mapping the space ahead of time, it works straight away when you put on the Meta 2 AR glasses.
So the main download is like VR headsets, this AR headset requires a connection to an external computer but because of that, it has the capability of delivering AR gaming experiences like no other.
I haven’t seen any game running on this AR glasses, here is an actual game running on Meta 2. However, it seems that its main focus is to improve productivity in workplaces. Having said that, on the FAQ page, it says that the company offers native Unity SDK. The company also mentioned that the Meta 2 AR headset SDK support SteamVR and WebVR as well.
Although the Meta 2 is half the price of the HoloLens, it’s still quite expensive and that price still leads the same growth constraint and therefore I can’t see it become a popular consumer product for AR gaming, at least not in the near future.
Magic Leap One
Magic Leap One uses Digital Lightfield technology with environment mapping precision tracking and soundfield audio to produce amazing Mixed Reality experiences, something that should be like nothing that we have ever seen before. It connects to a “Lightpack” which allows it to perform heavy spatial computing and high-powered processing and graphics separated from the glasses themselves. This unit is quite compact, so although you’ll need to carry it with you, you at least won’t need to wear glasses half the size of your head.
Magic Leap One can detect surfaces, planes, and objects. Developers can create interaction between virtual objects and real physical objects in the real world. For example, you can create a game with a monkey that can actually climb your sofa and table in the living room. These technologies are definitely necessary to provide a much more natural and immersive augmented reality experience.
I didn’t even mention the ability to persist virtual objects in the 3D physical space, which can be so much useful in games. For example, if you build a Mario game that climbs on physical objects in your house, you can actually save the exact position of the character in the exact physical location where it was located before you quit the game, but of course, there are many other possibilities of taking advantages of this technology.
There is no word about pricing just yet, but as you can see, Magic Leap One as the best chance of becoming the most attractive mixed reality glasses which we can expect it to deliver a revolutionary mixed relaity gaming experiences.
Now before we move on, check out this amazing concept video from Magic Leap. Now, this is just CGI, this is not a Magic Leap actual demo, so hold your horses. Nevertheless, it just can give you an idea how amazing it will be playing a first-person shooter with AR glasses or any AR game in that respect.
Apple AR Glasses
Of course, we can’t end this article without talking about Apple AR Glasses (iGlasses). Nobody really knows what to expect and what Apple AR glasses will be like. All we can do is just assume. I can assume that it’s very likely that we get the same ARKit experience but using these glasses, rather than using the device. This will provide the user with hands-free AR experience. We can also expect it to have hand recognition like Meta 2 has and support it through its SDK to allow users to naturally interact with virtual objects in the scene.
I also believe that Apple AR glasses will be bundled with a dedicated controller that will allow users to interact with the AR content. I also assume that Apple will partner with 3rd party companies to offer them an option to manufacture their own controllers. This way we can see a wide range of unique controllers like a Gun Controller for example.
Another option is that we are going to see a modular controller that will allow us to change its structure so it can fit different types of games. This can be really great because honestly, I don’t want to buy a different type of controllers to play different types of games.
The other option is that we are not going to see any controller, and the AR glasses are going to have some sort of hand recognition system that will deploy the virtual 3D model and track it alongside your hand movement. However, after playing with my Merge Cube and trying out some VR games using motion controllers at a friend’s house, I think that there is nothing like getting that physical feel of something you hold in your hand, it will be much more precise as well. Can you imagine holding a two-handed virtual gun with your two hands and touch nothing physical?
The entire AR industry is looking towards Apple’s next product announcement. I am quite certain that Apple will deliver a product that allows developers to develop great AR gaming experiences.
As far as I can see it, there isn’t any single AR Glasses product on the consumer market that attracts games developers at the moment. I also wait for Google to come up with their own AR glasses. Unless I missed something, which I might, Magic Leap One is the only product that looks like a well-worthy AR gaming device in the form of glasses with emphasis on comfortability and mobility.
The thing is we can get to the same starting point if the Magic Leap one price will be very expensive. However, if Apple releases a $1000 AR Glasses, I have no doubt that it will become very popular regardless of its high price, but that’s yet to be seen.
Overall, there isn’t any consumer AR glasses product that currently as a great appeal for game developers. If I was a game developer, would I to develop games for HoloLens? probably not, because I don’t see even getting a return on my investment considering the expensive price of the unity and the time I’ve spent developing it. It seems like the only product that can actually deliver upon this promise is not even announced yet.
Well, I guess we need to just wait a year or two until we see those new AR glasses from Apple. Magic Leap One will launch in the first quarter of 2018 for a selected group of developers and agencies and a public launch for global consumers will come towards the end of the year. I assume we get to see some early builds of AR games for Magic Leap One during 2018. It will be exciting to see what ideas developers will come up with for these amazing AR glasses. Until that day come, I will continue to enjoy what the present has to offer with high hopes for some AR Glasses game reveals in 2018/2019.
What’s your opinion as a Developer or Gamer?
If you know about other great AR glasses for gaming that I’ve missed, let me know in the comment section below. I would love to hear what are your expectations as developers and gamers. What features you want to see and which product appeals to you the most?