Microsoft has high hopes for its HoloLens augmented reality (AR) headset in the enterprise, but for now, only organizations and early adopters willing to part with $3,000 for the Development Edition of the hardware can take the fledging technology for a spin. App support is a bit sparse and will likely remain that way until developers get a better handle on the platform.
Meanwhile, Atheer, a Mountain View, Calif.-based smart glasses startup, is getting ready to start shipping its own AR gear aimed at businesses.
With production currently under way, Atheer's AiR Glasses will begin making their way into customers' hands—or onto their heads, rather—in the fourth quarter of this year. In addition to supporting the company's own business-focused AirSuite software, the gesture-sensing device has a major trick up its sleeve: Android support.
AiR Glasses pack an Android tablet into an external processing unit (EPU) that connects to the "glasses" portion of the device. The compact EPU is small enough to clip on the wearer's belt and provides the CPU and graphics processing power to project interactive app experiences onto a user's physical environment.
With a bit of practice, Atheer's hand gesture technology can make using Android apps that hover in front of the wearer as intuitive an experience as on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone (the non-exploding kind, of course). During a recent demonstration of a preproduction unit in New York City, the device impressed with its responsiveness to user input, the fidelity of the visuals it produced and its overall performance. Although it weighs considerably more than a pair of safety glasses, it is adjustable, allowing users to find a comfortable fit.
Since Android is already home to a vibrant and massive app marketplace, including a wide selection of business and productivity apps, Atheer's AiR Glasses shatter the barriers for introducing AR into mobile-enabled work environments, price notwithstanding. Atheer is currently accepting orders at $3,950 apiece.
In and of itself, the AiR Glasses may be compelling for many enterprise organizations. However, Alberto Torres, CEO of Atheer, says the hardware really comes into its own when it's running the company's AiR Suite software. (It is also compatible with smart eyewear from select companies, including Epson and Vuzix.)
AiR Suite is a collection of collaboration and management tools that enable organizations to integrate enterprise content such as live video, messaging and real-time annotation capabilities into workflows. For example, an organization can gather reference materials and procedures into drag-and-drop "task flows" that guide workers through complex repairs or inspections. If they need assistance, help is a video call away.
"Our system is totally customizable, allowing deskless professionals to collaborate remotely with expert functionality and in real time," Torres told eWEEK. "And it results in fewer risks in the field, making for faster task completion rates."
The hardware and software combo can help businesses slash costs and recoup countless hours lost digging through manuals or cracking open a laptop to consult a schematic. Atheer estimates that AiR Suite video calling and annotation capabilities can cut travel for field engineers by up to 50 percent.
"At Atheer, we're transforming the enterprise professional's experience," Torres said. "Combining our award-winning hardware and software, AiR Glasses and AiR Suite make for the most productive hands-free and heads-up computing anywhere."
Atheer's AiR Suite took home top honors in the enterprise solutions Auggie Awards category at the Augmented World Expo conference in Santa Clara, Calif., this past June.