A More Realistic Augmented Reality

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Story and images by MIT Technology Review

It’s not a consumer product (yet), but a startup’s AR headset could give HoloLens a run for its money.

There are still just a few companies showing off augmented-reality headsets that do a good job blending digital imagery with the real world, among them Microsoft’s HoloLens and Meta’s Meta 2.

One more is now joining the fray. A startup called Avegant, which already sells a funny-looking personal-theater headset called the Glyph for $499, has built a prototype of a headset with a transparent display that it says uses light-field technology to let you view virtual objects as naturally as you do real ones. A light field is the pattern created when rays of light bounce off something, and re-creating this effect is one key to making sharp-looking augmented-reality images that you can comfortably focus on when they are at different depths but in the same scene–like, say, a toy car an arm’s length away and a house off in the distance.

If the idea of light fields in an augmented-reality headset sounds familiar, it may be because the secretive and well-funded startup Magic Leap has been working on such technology for several years now. Back in late 2014, it showed me its then-enormous prototypes, which weren’t yet in a working headset; the company has since opened up a little more about the headset it’s working on, but it hasn’t yet said when it will release a product.

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Filed Under: Telepresence

About the Author: Howard S. Lichtman is a productivity-focused technologist, author, and consultant with specialties in telepresence and visual collaboration to improve organizational and personal productivity. He is the founder and president of the Human Productivity Lab, an independent consultancy and research firm that helps organizations design telepresence strategies and deploy telepresence solutions. He is the publisher of Telepresence Options, the #1 website on the Internet covering the telepresence revolution and editor of the Telepresence Options Telegraph, the world's most widely read publication focused on telepresence technologies. Mr. Lichtman is also the author and/or co-author of The Inter-Company Telepresence and Videoconferencing Handbook (2009), The Telepresence and Videoconferencing Exchange Review(2010), Telepresence, Effective Visual Collaboration and the Future of Global Business at the Speed of Light (2006), and Emerging Technologies for Teleconferencing and Telepresence (2005). He is currently working on Telepresence Options 2010 Yearbook. Mr. Lichtman is a frequent commentator on telepresence, videoconferencing and effective visual collaboration and his writings on and analysis of the industry have been featured by US News and World Report, Telephony Magazine, CXO Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Reuters, Pro AV Magazine, Killer App Magazine, ABA Banking Journal, Bank Systems and Technology Magazine and CFO Magazine among others.

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