While Google Glass seems to be the hardware that gets all the attention, it turns out there are many, many entrants in the AR head mounted display (HMD) field. Some are recent entrants to the market while others preceded Glass by years. As part of my survey of the state of the AR industry, I thought I’d put together a comprehensive list of the hardware I could find.
I started with over a hundred entrants gleaned from web searches, articles and other people’s lists. I then went through this list one by one and scrutinized each entrant to come up with the following criteria for inclusion in my final list: First of all, the HMD had to augment the user’s experience in some way — units only capable of shooting photos or video were eliminated as were units designed for virtual reality (VR) only. Secondly, there had to be at least a functional prototype in existence with the intent to work toward production. There were several entrants that were created as proofs of concept only and they were eliminated along with those for which I could find no website for. I also eliminated desktop AR systems that were not designed to be head mounted displays (use cameras for input and VDT for output). Finally, I chose not to include companies like Apple and Samsung who possess patents in the AR HMD space but have made no public showing of a product yet.
I ended up with an array of AR systems with different technological approaches and intended uses. I have categorized them by form factor, target market, user interface, operating system, existence of a developer SDK, and means of company funding. During this exercise I came to realize what a global phenomenon AR is and how the technology is being developed in labs all over the world for many different applications. An overwhelming number of these HMDs are made for industrial, commercial, medical and military sectors. In fact, I’ve really come to appreciate the extent to which military applications have been driving AR technology and how it will likely continue to do so in the future.
In my follow up to this post I intend to take a subset of these HMDs whose intended use is for the mobile consumer and evaluate their viability and competitiveness. In the mean time, feel free to leave comments about HMDs I may have missed or metadata I may have misrepresented. The ultimate goal is to manage a list of technology that is curated on an ongoing basis.
For a better view you can access the Google Sheets doc directly here.