Wearables

ODG's smartglasses are like a high-end Android tablet for your face (hands-on)

ODG's smartglasses are like a ...
ODG's R-7 smartglasses are aimed primarily at enterprise and developers, but could spawn consumer products at some point
ODG's R-7 smartglasses are aimed primarily at enterprise and developers, but could spawn consumer products at some point
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ODG's VP of Headworn Tech Nima Shams modeling a prototype with a wide field of view
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ODG's VP of Headworn Tech Nima Shams modeling a prototype with a wide field of view
ODG's R-7 smartglasses can't quite pass for a pair of regular glasses, but they're more subtle than many headworn tech products
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ODG's R-7 smartglasses can't quite pass for a pair of regular glasses, but they're more subtle than many headworn tech products
ODG's R-7 smartglasses are aimed primarily at enterprise and developers, but could spawn consumer products at some point
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ODG's R-7 smartglasses are aimed primarily at enterprise and developers, but could spawn consumer products at some point
Some of the accessories available for the R-7 unit, including handheld controllers
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Some of the accessories available for the R-7 unit, including handheld controllers

For the second straight CES, we spent some time hanging out with Osterhout Design Group (ODG), makers of the most badass smartglasses this side of Hololens. ODG's glasses are still aimed primarily at enterprise customers and developers (and priced accordingly), but if or when they eventually become full-on consumer products, there's a pretty good chance you're going to want a pair.

This year ODG showed us two pairs of its glasses: the new R-7 model, which has a 30-degree field of view and is available to order now for an enterprise-priced US$2,750, along with an unreleased prototype that's very similar to the R-7 but has a 1080p display with a 50-degree field of view.

Hiding internals that are equivalent to a highish-end Android tablet (including 64 GB storage, 3 GB RAM and a Snapdragon 805 processor in the R-7) means that the glasses' form naturally has some noticeable bulk. While you could say they're approaching subtle, they still aren't to the point where you can pass them off as "regular" glasses:

ODG's R-7 smartglasses can't quite pass for a pair of regular glasses, but they're more subtle than many headworn tech products
ODG's R-7 smartglasses can't quite pass for a pair of regular glasses, but they're more subtle than many headworn tech products

But, unlike Google Glass, the overall form factor of ODG's glasses is familiar and pedestrian; there are no odd asymmetrical forms with hanging prisms that announce "I'm a tech product" to anyone in sight. They look a bit like a rugged pair of sports sunglasses, only bulkier.

If ODG can get future generations even subtler, shedding some of that bulk without sacrificing power, then they could capture the holy grail of headworn wearable tech: advanced AR on the inside, incognito on the outside.

While you're wearing them, you see a gorgeous, high-res display centered in the lower half of your field of view. Capable of supporting 3D content with stereoscopic imagery, the glasses hit a nice balance of transparency and immersion. You can easily see through (and around) the display to catch what's going on around you, but it's still opaque enough to fully absorb the displayed 720p content.

The glasses run a custom version of Android KitKat, dubbed ReticleOS, so sideloading Android apps and movie files alone could give you plenty of options for traditional content (apparently 21st Century Fox sees potential in this area as well, as it recently acquired a minority stake to become ODG's principle outside investor). And it's easy to control, using either a trackpad on the glasses themselves, or a paired handheld controller:

Some of the accessories available for the R-7 unit, including handheld controllers
Some of the accessories available for the R-7 unit, including handheld controllers

Where the glasses could get really interesting is when developers take full advantage of their AR capabilities. We checked out a Hololens-like demo that utilized the stereoscopic display and head-tracking to bring a building design to life in front of our eyes. Unlike Hololens demos, the augmented object was tethered to an AR card (there's no built-in environmental scanning like HoloLens has).

That's likely a big reason for making the wider field of view model ODG showed us. The R-7 is great for stationary content, and it could work for AR experiences too, but wider FOVs will always create a more effective illusion when placing AR content in the real world. The WFOV prototype has a display that spans a good portion of the lenses; the AR demo was immersive and impressive.

ODG's VP of Headworn Tech Nima Shams modeling a prototype with a wide field of view
ODG's VP of Headworn Tech Nima Shams modeling a prototype with a wide field of view

In addition to supporting its current enterprise customers, much of ODG's current focus is on encouraging developers to build the apps that will bring the (R-7 and beyond) glasses to life. There's only so much we can see at convention demos (and we suspect non-disclosure client agreements prevent ODG from showcasing today's very best stuff), but the hardware is impressive enough to get our imaginations firing on all cylinders. With time, a more subtle form factor and the right software support, ODG could make a very interesting consumer wearable.

ODG's R-7 smartglasses are available to order now from the product page below, with current orders having an expected Q2 2016 ship date.

Product page: ODG

5 comments
Bob Flint
People with corrective lenses, or glasses don't look like their eyewear is hovering over your nose like these bulky (I refuse to even think them as glasses) much less smart.
Steve Jones
I'm very glad to see that smartglasses didn't die with Google Glass. But the price will have to come down by a factor of ~10 before they go mainstream.
ljaques
"Only $2,750.00" Massive, instantly-recognizable-as-tech, despite their denial. I fail to see these progressing into mainstream use, even if the price were severely reduced to that of a decent phone. Interaction with other people while wearing those would be quite limited. Pass.
Dan Lewis
We get lots of shots of a head wearing stuff. You couldn't, even once, show us what it looks like from viewer's viewpoint? Phooey.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
As an ex-glasses wearer, I would like something to keep the weight off of the nose and ears.