Having originally planned to sell its lightweight Blade AR smart glasses in 2017, VR/AR headset maker Vuzix has announced separate 2018 and 2019 ship dates for two versions of the product. The initial commercial version — called Blade Edge — will begin shipping in the first week of November, followed by a January 2019 release of Blade General with retail packaging and accessories.
The Blade smart glasses are a significant development for the AR industry because they’re the closest thing yet to a standard pair of sunglasses — their styling, thick frames, and thin lenses would sit comfortably in the mid-2000s lineup of a company like Oakley. Yet using a full color waveguide optical system, Blade pairs with a smartphone to overlap anything from map directions and weather to patient data, restaurant menus, and notifications directly in your right eye’s field of vision.
Vuzix says the Texas Instruments DLP Pico display is bright enough to be seen both indoors and in outdoor sunlight, with support for prescription inserts and multiple lens colors. Data and images displayed by Blade’s screen appear to float in the user’s field of view.
Blade’s frames hold a significant amount of hardware, including an Android-based quad-core ARM computer, a control touchpad on the right temple, haptic feedback behind the ear, noise-canceling microphones for multilingual voice control, an 8-megapixel camera for live video recording, and MicroSD storage. The tetherless interface uses either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect to devices.
By contrast with such rival AR glasses as Microsoft’s HoloLens and Magic Leap’s One Creator Edition, Blade isn’t designed for standalone use, doesn’t include stereoscopic displays, and lacks head-tracking hardware. In other words, its vision of “augmented reality” is comparatively limited. But at just under $1,000, it’s one-third the starting price of HoloLens and less than half the price of Magic Leap One, which could make it much more viable for wide enterprise adoption.
Beta units were available for developer testing earlier this year ahead of these commercial launches, but now the company is actually ready to start selling them to consumers. The initial Edge commercial release will include the Blade Edge SDK version 5, connecting the glasses to iOS and Android devices, plus a companion app, media player controls, and basic software. In January, the company plans to ship Blade General bundled with broader consumer and business software, services, accessories, and retail packaging.