The AR capability of Xiaomi Smart Glasses, as conceptualised here, is basic, but it looks like a highly achievable form that could prove useful
➨ Xiaomi Smart Glasses has been unveiled–and AR is front and centre
➨ Xiaomi says the glasses combine an imaging system and sensors into a subtle, ordinary design through MicroLED optical waveguide technology
➨ The smart glasses are able to display messages and notifications, make calls, navigate, capture photos, and translate text
Xiaomi, the multinational consumer electronics company headquartered in China, has unveiled a concept for its own smart glasses that promises basic augmented reality (AR) functionality.
Xiaomi Smart Glasses is very much a concept at this stage, with no release date or pricing confirmed. The company has revealed a number of specifications it is aiming for, however, and it is difficult not to assume that the announcement has been made in direct response to the launch of Ray-Ban Stories last week.
Rather disappointingly, those smart glasses—from EssilorLuxottica and Facebook—offer no AR capabilities.
In contrast, Xiaomi’s smart glasses have AR front and centre, although the company is careful not to use the term anywhere in its announcement, perhaps holding off until the product is fully ready.
Xiaomi says the glasses combine an imaging system and sensors into a subtle, ordinary design through MicroLED optical waveguide technology.
This technology means the smart glasses are able to display messages and notifications, make calls, navigate, capture photos, and translate text. Check out the video below (the green colour scheme used throughout reminds us of The Matrix—probably also no accident, with the fourth movie’s trailer released recently).
‘Optical waveguide technology significantly reduces device size and weight;
Xiaomi goes into great detail in the announcement to explain how it has accomplished this feat.
The smart glasses adopt MicroLED imaging technology “to lower the design space needed in structural design, as well as the overall weight of the device”, according to Xiaomi.
MicroLED is “the most optimal choice” to fit the imaging system seamlessly into the frames, because pixels are individually lit like OLEDs, but have a higher pixel density, longer lifespan, and a simpler structure.
“This allows for a more compact display, as well as easier screen integration,” Xiaomi explains.
With a display chip measuring 2.4mm x 2.02mm—or “roughly the size of a grain of rice”—and individual pixels sized at 4μm, the display fits within the frames of the glasses. Xiaomi has also opted for a monochrome display solution that is capable of reaching a peak brightness of 2 million nits.
Xiaomi continues: “By adopting optical waveguide technology which refracts lights at 180°, the MicroLED display accurately transmits light beams to the human eye through the microscopic grating structure of the optical waveguide lens.”
“The grating structure etched onto the inner surface of the lens allows light to be refracted in a unique way, directing it safely into the human eye. The refraction process involves bouncing light beams countless times, allowing the human eye to see a complete image, and greatly increasing usability while wearing. All this is done inside a single lens, instead of using complicated multiple lens systems, mirrors, or half mirrors as some other products do.”
“Optical waveguide technology significantly reduces device size and weight, and therefore allows smart glasses to approach the form factor of traditional glasses.”
Indeed, all of this means Xiaomi could achieve a weight of 51g for the smart glasses. Ray-Ban Stories weigh 5g more than a standard pair of Wayfarer glasses—so it will be interesting to discover how the two compare.
With the technology in place and form factor finalised, Xiaomi settled on basic notification, call display, navigation, taking photos, teleprompter, and real-time text and photo translations as the central functions of the smart glasses.
“[Xiaomi Smart Glasses] is not just a ‘second screen’ for your smartphone, but instead functions as a new smart terminal with independent operating capability,” the company explains, underlining the difference between this wearable and Ray-Ban Stories.
The AR capability, as conceptualised here, is basic, but it looks like a highly achievable form that could prove useful.
And Xiaomi wants these smart glasses to be very useful. They will utilise XiaoAi AI Assistant to push the most relevant information and lay it over the wearer’s eyes. For notifications, for example, the smart glasses will select and push the most important messages, such as smart home alarms, urgent information from office apps, and messages from key contacts.
Most impressive—if Xiaomi can pull them off—are navigation and translation. For the former, Xiaomi Smart Glasses can present roads and maps, via the displays, in real time.
Similarly, the 5MP camera on the front of the glasses can take photos and translate text in them. And with the help of the built-in microphone and a proprietary translating algorithm, the smart glasses are capable of transcribing audio into text with translations in real time.