Exploring the components behind flagship AR glasses


Let’s talk about Snap’s Spectacles (but more on the component side). By the time you read this, I don’t need to tell you that Snap unveiled their new AR specs, as the first of several technology companies rolling out their new hardware. Or, if I am, now you know. 

But for me personally, what’s really interesting is the hardware behind the glasses. Executives from Facebook have made it clear that its the biggest technological hurdle is to get sophisticated computing power in a very small space. That’s partially why the Spectacles look like a square robo frame. So companies like WaveOptics I find super fascinating; they create the waveguides that help to bring the content clearly in front of people’s eyeballs. Pretty valuable technology, and they were bought by Snap for ~$500m; I theorise it’s because they know exactly what they are doing, and so they can’t work with other partners in the future. 

In February 2020 I met the team as they unveiled their Katana version, which was awesome to see. Their Oxford offices show cased their technology, and I was wowed by the sophistication of what goes behind their waveguides (and my brain was slightly friend as well). To this day I still don’t quite understand it, but if I were to explain it to a five year old, it’s a way to bend light so it conveys crisp images on the lens. 

We’re going to see more companies battle it out on the component side in the future, as they harness the technology and brainpower to deploy innovative specs. Snap’s version is more of an enthusiast developer edition, a 30-minute-of-battery toy for people to play around with. Acquisitions like WaveOptics is vital to solidify their position, now and into the future. 

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Tom Ffiske

Editor, Virtual Perceptions

Tom Ffiske specialises in writing about VR, AR, and MR across the immersive reality industry. Tom is based in London. 

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