Learn in which applications data glasses can be used and what benefits they can bring to your employees and your company.
There are a number of AR & VR glasses for business and industry. Which data glasses can do what particularly well?
What are the individual models suitable for and what strengths do they have?
In this article we present the most popular and promising data glasses for Augmented and Virtual Reality, including possible applications.
General purpose capacity for remote work: Google Glass 2
Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is specially designed for business applications that require longer use. At just 80 grams, it is particularly light and comfortable. This makes it well suited for comprehensive work instructions, inspections, and acceptances. Google Glass 2 displays images, videos, and instructions directly in the field of view and thereby allows immediate access to additional information without losing sight of the respective real object. Various tests have shown that workers who use data glasses carry out tasks more efficiently than when they use instructions on tablets or paper.
Voice commands enable image recordings or switching to the next display or image. In addition, the glasses can be operated by swiping or tapping on the glasses frame. The glasses can be used in factories or workshops as well as outdoors. Google Glass 2 is IPX3 certified and therefore protected against falling spray water – though not much more. The glasses are not suitable for extreme weather conditions or intensive exposure to very high or low temperatures.
Technical features & price
An 8-megapixel camera can take videos and photos. Three integrated microphones and a mono speaker also enable sound recordings and audio playback. Live video streams, for example with remote experts, can be implemented via the WiFi interface. Depending on the application, one battery charge lasts up to eight hours. Thanks to the quick charge function, 50 percent of the battery is restored within 20 minutes. At around 85-euro, Google Glass is in the middle price range of data glasses that can be used for industrial purposes.
Use cases for Google Glass 2
InspectAR allows you to project step-by-step instructions directly onto the screen of the data glasses. Also accompany your inspections and testing processes with digital support, including automatic documentation and remote access for remote experts where applicable. Google Glass 2 in conjunction with InspectAR offers a time- and cost-saving solution, especially for long and detailed inspections or acceptances: The error rate decreases, no stations are forgotten, all work steps are carried out, and you can subsequently track all inspection steps. In addition, Google Glass is very well suited for step-by-step instructions, for example, when assembling machines and vehicles.
Google Smart Glass 2 is worth considering if you…
- Are looking for data glasses for inspections or step-by-step instructions,
- Want to get started quickly and easily,
- Require a lightweight and very comfortable device.
The best-in-class AR glasses: HoloLens 2
HoloLens 2 is the second generation of AR glasses from market leader Microsoft. The 3x higher wearing comfort and 2x larger field of view are particularly successful: AR projections are embedded in reality in 3D in a clearly visible and vibration-free manner and can, for example, be placed precisely on the dimensions of a machine as digital work steps. Spatial mapping is supported by new depth sensors and artificial intelligence, which allows surfaces to be recognized much more precisely than in the previous model.
Hand and gesture control have been significantly improved. Virtual objects can be moved, made smaller, enlarged and placed anywhere in the real space with your own hands. Even without hand control, the HoloLens 2 is easy to use – thanks to precise eye tracking and voice commands. This leaves your hands free for the work steps.
Technical features & price
The holographic waveguide lenses offer a 2K resolution with a diagonal field of view of around 50 degrees. This is wide enough for many applications, such as product development, maintenance or training. Eye-tracking technology optimizes the optical system of the AR glasses for the eyes of the wearer. This works fully automatically the first time the glasses are put on.
Eye-tracking also enables new forms of control and interaction, such as highlighting objects or scrolling pages with the eyes. At 560 grams, HoloLens 2 is relatively heavy but sits comfortably thanks to the well-designed head strap and can be worn for a longer period of time without any discomfort. Use with prescription glasses is no problem, and the visor can be easily lifted up.
Third-party providers, such as Trimble with Trimble XR10, also offer solutions that make HoloLens 2 compatible with safety helmets and thus useful on a construction site, for example. However, the battery only lasts for around one and a half hours when in active use. HoloLens 2 costs 3,752 euros if purchased as a single device. There are also package options with different software solutions, such as Dynamics 356 Remote Assist.
Use case for HoloLens 2: Azure Remote Rendering
HoloLens 2 is used in robotics, for example, or for training purposes. However, the application in conjunction with Azure Remote Rendering (ARR) is particularly future-oriented. High-quality, interactive 3D models can be streamed to HoloLens 2 AR-glasses without losing detail with this mixed reality service from Microsoft.
Until now, it has been quite costly to prepare 3D models for use with AR glasses. Computing power was also generally not sufficient to display objects with maximum detail. Therefore, the number of polygons – and thus also the amount of detail – had to be reduced to the extent that a fluid representation was possible. However, the reduced level of detail can make the meaningful use of AR technology difficult in many scenarios.
Azure Remote Rendering makes this dilemma a thing of the past. 3D models are uploaded to the cloud, are rendered and encoded there by powerful GPUs and then streamed directly to HoloLens 2 without any loss of time or quality. This means that object iterations can also be evaluated collaboratively at any time. Read our detailed article on Azure Remote Rendering to find out everything about the functioning and applications of this new technology.
HoloLens 2 is worth considering if you want …
- The most flexible and high quality AR glasses available from the market leader,
- Application scenarios that make full use of the space and 3D display, e.g., for training on real objects,
- To use Azure Remote Rendering to evaluate 3D objects and
- To work with proven Windows software, including authentication and enterprise grade security functions.
HoloLens challenger: Magic Leap 1
The Magic Leap 1 was originally intended to be used as AR glasses for home users before the shift to business was completed. This results in very good graphic performance and rich colors that outshine the image display of HoloLens 2. The user interface is designed to be very accessible, which facilitates interaction with 3D objects.
Magic Leap 1 can be operated by hand gestures or a controller. Computing power comes from a pocket computer, the so-called “Lightpack”, which is connected to the glasses by a cable. The AR glasses themselves, also known as “Lightwear“, are equipped with an Nvidia Tegra X2 chip, which is also used in the automotive industry and operates high-quality infotainment systems. The advantage of the Lightpack is undoubtedly the increased performance.
Technical features & price
A unique selling point of Magic Leap 1 is the creation of images by means of a fiber-optic display with two focus levels. Integrated eye tracking registers whether you are looking into the distance or fixing on a point nearby. This is similar to real vision and reduces stress on the eyes. The diagonal field of view is 50 degrees. Due to the bulky design of the glasses with two thick side pieces, the natural field of view is somewhat restricted on the side, however. For safety reasons, the AR glasses are therefore not suitable for all applications. Magic Leap offers companies an “Enterprise Suite” with various services and warranties at a business level. The price of Magic Leap 1 is 1980 Euro.
Use cases for Magic Leap 1
Thanks to the high-resolution graphics, Magic Leap 1 is particularly well suited for evaluating 3D models. The evaluation, review and especially the presentation of graphic objects with their image sharpness and rich coloring are impressive. The AR glasses can also be put to practical use in training scenarios due to their high contrast display. The company is currently further expanding its business offerings.
Magic Leap 1 is worth considering if you…
- Work in design or product development,
- Want to work together with colleagues on high-resolution 3D models and
- Want to make graphically convincing presentations to the customer.
Compact 3D AR glasses from China: Nreal Light
Unlike Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap, Nreal Light is actually aimed directly at end consumers. This is in particular reflected in the design, which is not optimized for occupational safety. Nreal Light looks almost like a commercial pair of sunglasses and is quite light at 88 grams. In addition, the Nreal is paired with a mobile phone, which provides the computing power.
This approach is also being pursued by other manufacturers. Apple has already announced that it will connect its planned data glasses to its smartphone. Although the glasses are very lightweight, they offer, compared to data glasses such as Google Glass or Vuzix devices, full AR projections in 3D that are spatially located and can be placed on a machine, for example.
In terms of image quality and 3D display, Nreal Light can even exceed the more expensive business glasses, HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1. When used indoors, Nreal Light offers a sharp and high-contrast image, and texts are easy to read. Even though the 3D image loses some impact in bright environments, it is always very recognizable. However, it must also be noted that the relatively new software generally seems somewhat unstable. This makes productive use somewhat cumbersome at the moment. In addition, the wearing comfort of the Nreal takes some getting used to, despite its low weight.
Technical features & price
Motion sensors, an ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, two microphones, stereo speakers, two black-and-white cameras for spatial tracking and a five megapixel RGB camera are installed in the upper part of the glasses frame. The field of view is 52 degrees and the refresh rate is 60 Hertz. Spatial tracking and anchoring of 3D objects in space work well but do not match the tracking best-in-class, HoloLens 2.
Wearers of prescription glasses can wear the frame over their own glasses or use corrective lenses. Nreal Light is also quick to set up and universal. The 3D user interface “Nebula” makes it possible to use all Android smartphone apps in a 3D AR environment. Nreal Light currently costs around 1,200 euros for the Dev Kit and, given its features, is in a very interesting environment for companies working in the design or product development fields.
Use cases for Nreal Light
Applications for Nreal Light are office work with several digital screens, viewing 3D models or even 3D telepresence telephony. The AR glasses are marketed to end consumers but also support business apps for AR remote maintenance. Collaborative work with real-time display and evaluation of 3D objects make the AR glasses a real alternative if you don’t want to bear the much higher costs for HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1.
The Nreal Light is worth considering if you …
- Prefer mobile data glasses with smartphone compatibility, but
- Attach particular importance to a particularly good graphic representation of media and 3D objects and
- are looking for comparatively inexpensive glasses for AR entry outside of production halls.
The new VR flexibility: Oculus Quest
Oculus Quest is a self-sufficient VR headset from Facebook. Turn on, set up, start the app – you cannot use VR faster at the moment. In addition, the stand-alone VR headset is being marketed as a game changer, since for the first time it is possible to use Virtual Reality without external devices (PC & tracking) with six degrees of freedom. Six degrees of freedom or 6DoF-VR glasses can detect the movement on the x, y and z axis: forward/ reverse, up/ down and left/ right.
This allows users to move around a space freely to look around objects, crawl under projections, etc. Oculus Quest therefore offers much more comprehensive interaction options than VR glasses such as Samsung Gear or Oculus Go with just three degrees of freedom (3DoF). In these models, only the rotation movement on the x, y and z axis is covered (e.g., 360° videos with a fixed position).
The space tracking built into the VR headset is precise but may result in glitches in bright or dark environments. The Oculus Quest is controlled by touch controllers, which lie comfortably in the hand and enable intuitive operation. Alternatively, menus and selected apps can also be controlled directly with hand and finger gestures thanks to hand tracking. This makes it easier for computer amateurs to get started with VR training, for example.
Technical features & price
The Oculus Quest does not require connection to an external computing unit and is therefore very flexible. All hardware is installed in the VR headset. With 1,600 x 1,440 pixels per eye, the OLED displays have good contrast values. VR applications for the PC can be streamed to the Quest via a USB-C cable (Oculus Link). This makes Oculus Quest the most versatile VR headset on the market today. The optionally available official high-speed fiber optic cable with USB-C to USB-A connection is five meters long and thinner and more flexible than alternative conventional USB cables – but also significantly more expensive.
The biggest disadvantage: At 571 grams, Oculus Quest is rather heavy and provides little wearing comfort for long sessions. Padding or additional third-party straps provide greater comfort. The battery lasts for around two to three hours and is fully charged again after around two hours of charging. The USB-C connection allows the headset to be connected to a power bank, which significantly extends the run time. In the “Oculus for Business” program, Oculus offers a package for companies.
This includes a comprehensive service package and a user interface specifically designed for use in companies. IT management tools make it easy to set up multiple headsets in just a few steps. The Oculus Quest costs between 450 euros and 550 euros, depending on the desired storage size. Facebook, the parent company of Oculus, has been investing heavily in VR for years and has laid out new technologies, including Augmented Reality, as a priority for the next few years. As a result, a new, more comfortable and possibly more powerful version of Oculus Quest will be announced in September 2020.
Use cases for the Oculus Quest
Virtual Reality makes it possible to create all conceivable environments and situations that your employees could encounter in their daily work. Extensive training courses, virtual inspections of buildings or virtual conferences are possible. But you can also virtually build and test a new car design in its original size and all its details before spending a lot of money on a real prototype.
VR trainings are an effective way to learn work steps or prepare for specific situations within the work environment. They are especially worthwhile for companies when real training is expensive, impossible, infrequent or dangerous. The motor memory can be trained virtually and routines practiced, for example when repairing a machine – even at home.
DHL uses VR training with Oculus Quest to train its employees in delivery and logistics processes. There are also a wide range of applications for VR in medicine. Oculus Quest is used with a rehabilitation app for children with limited movement options at the Zurich Children’s Hospital. In a virtual garden, the child picks fruit from a tree or interacts with animals and is motivated to move through the playful VR environment, which supports the healing process.
Oculus Quest is worth considering if you …
- Are looking for flexible and easily accessible VR glasses with hand and finger tracking,
- Want to train your employees comparatively inexpensively via virtual reality or
- Offer VR demos quickly and easily at trade fairs.
Built for industry: Realwear HMT 1
Thanks to its robust design, RealWear HMT 1 can be used in almost all industries. It is IP66 and MIL-STD 810G certified and therefore waterjet-proof and dust-proof and can be easily worn with a protective helmet. HMT 1 remains fully functional at ambient temperatures between -20 and +50 degrees Celsius.
Your hands remain free while working; a glance at the “boom arm” is enough. This is an arm with an integrated display that you simply fold back and forth in front of your eye as needed.
RealWear HMT 1 © is safe to wear, despite its weight, for a long time and in difficult environments. The HMT-1 weighs 430 grams but can be worn for a long time thanks to the comfortable head strap. The battery life of up to eight hours supports the wearing comfort and can be extended even during operation thanks to the “hot swap” function. Realwear HMT 1 is controlled with voice commands in 12 different languages via four integrated microphones that function remarkably precisely thanks to active noise suppression at noise levels of up to 95 dB.
Technical features & price
The digital display in the field of view has a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels and is perceived to be roughly the same size as a 7-inch tablet screen. The image is transferred monocularly to one eye. Users can, for example, wear prescription glasses without any problems. At 20 degrees, however, the field of view is very narrow. An optionally available LTE module ensures a better Internet connection if required.
The built-in 16-MP camera with optical image stabilization and PDAF with LED light records videos in HD quality at 30 FPS. The disadvantage of the data headset is the set-up time: It takes quite a while for the user to adjust the HMT-1 to their eye and to be able to work with it without any problems. The price is around 2100 euros
Bomb-proof: HMT1Z1 with ATEX certification
RealWear HMT-1Z1 is the world’s only data headset with ATEX, IECEx and NEC500 protection ratings. The headset can therefore be used in Zone 1 potentially explosive areas as well as in petrochemical and pharmaceutical plants, food facilities such as grain silos or sugar processing and in cosmetics manufacturing environments.
Differences from HMT-1:
- Non-replaceable but stronger battery with more than eight hours of battery life
- 50 grams heavier
- Instead of a Type C USB connection, there is a micro-USB connection with charging protection (not suitable for use in Ex protection areas)
The price of RealWear HT1Z1 is 6,000 euros.
Use cases for RealWear HMT-1
RealWear HMT-1 is ideal for remotely managing work steps. Cameras and microphones transfer the technician’s image on site to the remote expert’s screen and vice versa. Remote assistance or working with checklists are ideal applications. The robust design makes HMT-1 the ideal companion for service technicians working in adverse conditions, such as on wind turbines. Despite the high noise level from the wind and turbine, voice control works perfectly.
Maintenance can be carried out without interruption, as hands remain free. Instructions by an expert are played live in the eye of the technician, who sees the surroundings in turn through the camera installed on the headband. With a RealWear HMT-1 (and HMT1Z1) you can also start InspectAR: An employee is guided step by step through test processes via the AR software. Work steps are guided and, if necessary, helpful texts, videos or graphics can be displayed by voice input. This reduces errors and contributes to high quality and production reliability.
RealWear HMT-1 or HMT-1Z1 is worth considering if…
- You are looking for a rugged industrial device that is certified in acccordance with IP66 and MIL-STD 816G (HMT-1Z1 even ATEX),
- Long battery life is important,
- You require high safety standards,
- You work in noisy, harsh or even hazardous environments.
Smartphone on your nose: Vuzix Blade/M3xx/M400x
The Rochester, New York data glasses manufacturer Vuzix offers several data glasses. Similar to a smartwatch, the Vuzix Blade acts as an extended arm of a smartphone. The AR glasses are connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth and show you incoming notifications of e-mails and messenger messages or remind you of appointments.
You can control the device using the touchpad in the side piece or the integrated Alexa voice assistant. The excellent waveguide display stays sharp regardless of light conditions and displays text clearly. At 90 grams, the AR glasses are one of the lightweights and has a battery life of 2.5 hours. However, persons wearing glasses need prescription lenses to be able to use the Blade; it cannot be usefully worn over glasses.
With the M Series, Vuzix is targeted directly at companies and can be classified between Google Glass and RealWear. Fields of activity in logistics and warehousing benefit from significantly increased efficiency and a reduced error rate thanks to precise digital instructions and hands-free operation. Checklists and selection information on the display of the data glasses support employees during individual work steps.
With the integrated camera, problems can be immediately visually detected and resolved together with remote experts. The entry-level M300XL model can be upgraded with safety glass together with a prescription and attached to protective helmets or other headgear. The battery life can also be increased during operation with a power bank. The screen visor can be worn either on the right or left.
These AR glasses are certified to IP 54, which means they are largely dust-repellent and splash-proof. The glasses cost around 1,300 euros. With the M400 Vuzix offers an even more robust and powerful model. The glasses are certified to IP 67, which means they are dust-proof and waterproof up to a depth of one meter. They also withstand falls of up to two meters.
An improved display provides higher contrast image reproduction, and the 12.8 megapixel camera can record in 4K. A stronger battery ensures longer run times. The price is 2,215 euros. The flagship model is the Vuzix M4000. It was designed based on the predecessor model M400 and differs from it primarily by the fully transparent waveguide display. It offers a field of view of 28 degrees diagonally and benefits from its high stability and text sharpness, especially in fluctuating lighting conditions. At a price of 2,500 euros, however, it is already close to the price of HoloLens 2 or Magic Leap.
Use cases for Vuzix data glasses
Vuzix glasses allow you to use remote assistance systems and network employees on-site with an expert directly via the AR glasses camera and display. Installation instructions or test processes can also be called up and carried out using Vuzix devices.
Vuzix data glasses are worth considering if…
- You are looking for robust data glasses but are not exposed to extreme conditions,
- A wide range of optional accessories is important to you
Bottom line: Data glasses support the digital transformation of your business
The advantages of data glasses are obvious. Users can evaluate collaboratively objects in 3D, the original size and with a high level of detail and expand their environment with useful digital instructions and graphics, which they would otherwise have to call up at their desk or with a portable display. This saves time and money.
Many defects in the design of a product can be detected virtually and eliminated long before a prototype is produced. This means that the assembly and dismantling of machines weighing several tons can also be accompanied in detail or trained over and over again. Simpler glasses models with a 2D display are a useful tool in daily work routines whenever workers need information while keeping their hands free.
Digital checklists with a documentation function replace lengthy paper lists during inspection processes. Testers do not overlook checkpoints, and any problems can either be resolved by contacting an expert directly via remote assistance or immediately filed as an order with the responsible department. Choosing the right glasses therefore depends in particular on the application and the prevailing conditions. In which work area/for which use case are the data glasses to be used? What safety and protective measures are required in the company?
What technological features are important to you? What are the added values that using data glasses is supposed to bring to the company? In answering these questions, we have gained many years of experience with a wide range of companies, whether in industry, chemistry, transport or architecture. That’s why we are happy to offer you our expertise – independently and neutrally. Augment IT has the glasses on site and will be happy to support you in selecting hardware and software as well as in the digital transformation of your company.
Here is a video about the different data glasses directly from our office: