Microsoft thinks it can succeed where Google failed with AR glasses

Story by Faustine Ngila  • 1mo

Microsoft filed a patent (pdf) for a new technology on Oct. 5 to develop an augmented reality (AR) pair of glasses that could, it hopes, prove revolutionary in replacing smartphones in coming years.

Due to high production costs and bland functionalities, Google has so far failed to take smart glasses technology mainstream since it was first released a decade ago. The product line was discontinued in March after a second failed attempt to wow the world.

Now, Microsoft wants to give the technology a much-needed jumpstart, with AR glasses that are more attractive to millennials and Gen Z. The glasses incorporate a swappable battery design and an internal charge storage that allows wearers to extend their usage even after the battery charge is depleted, making them usable for long periods of time even when there’s no convenient way to charge.

How Microsoft’s AR glasses’ new battery works

As per the patent application, the tech giant plans to develop a wearable device with “a module interface located on the frame, and an electrical connector located within the module interface.” In this case, the battery would then be connected to the rest of the glasses via an electrical connector, for easy removal and replacement.

In another design, the battery would be located within a detachable earpiece to allow users to go sans battery, if they find it uncomfortable to wear over long periods.

Microsoft hopes to control the AR glass market

As technical challenges continue to delay Apple’s entry into the AR glass market, Microsoft’s patent points to its determination to make its offer stand out for millions of users who feel the smartphone is getting a bit stale, and the time is nigh for the next frontier in communication.

This technology could also change how companies and employees define remote work amidst controversies over return-to-office policies, as it creates a new layer of human interaction where productivity is boosted through a portable work-station around your neck, belt, or backpack. The global AR/VR smart glasses market is projected to hit $33 billion by 2027.

What else can Microsoft’s specs do?

The glasses can also be paired to other external devices such as a backpack, a necklace, or a belt, opening up new functionalities and computing powers. In May this year, Microsoft filed a patent for a new AI-supported smart backpack, which can “identify objects in the environment, perform contextual tasks, access information from the cloud, and interact with other devices.”

Microsoft says detachable modules such as wifi, Li-Fi, solid-state drive, and additional compute capacity “may be configured to extend a functionality of the device.” Display subsystem would include one or more virtual display devices using any type of technology. When included, input subsystem would comprise or interface with user input devices such as a mouse, keyboard, touch screen, or game controller. These kinds of capabilities are what Microsoft, which killed its support for its Windows smartphones in 2017, is betting could potentially convince users to ditch their smartphones for these glasses.

The company has been investing heavily in the augmented reality sector. Last year, it partnered with chip maker Qualcomm to make microchips for designing lightweight AR glasses. The collaboration enabled coupling of the custom chips with the software used for creating virtual functionalities, allowing users to meet virtually by projecting an image of themselves into each other’s headsets.

 

The company’s AR glasses have been used in the mobility sector, after the company collaborated with German automaker Volkswagen to pioneer the use of the glasses in moving cars, implementing the HoloLens 2 project to mitigate the limitations of mixed reality headsets.

Last month, the US army placed an order with the tech powerhouse for another batch of advanced AR goggles for combat use, after passing the first round of intensive combat testing by soldiers.

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