How New Tech Could Lead to Smaller, Lighter AR Glasses

Thinner lenses are key

  • Lumus showed off a new design for augmented reality (AR) glasses that could eventually mean smaller devices. 
  • Experts say AR devices need to be more comfortable and powerful. 
  • The future of AR could be in gaming and communications.
person in white shirt holding smart glasses with digital information on virtual screen high tech interface

Techa Tungateja / Getty Images

You might soon be able to ditch bulky glasses when using augmented reality (AR), the interactive experience that combines the real world and computer-generated content. 

Lumus showed off its new Z-Lens design at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, claiming that it will enable smaller, lighter AR eyeglasses with high-resolution image quality. The new technique could allow the development of AR glasses that are more comfortable for gaming and other activities. 

"With slim AR glasses that have prescription capabilities, consumers can comfortably wear the devices all day for activities indoors and outdoors, all while staying comfortable in an aesthetic form factor that millions of people already wear," Lumus vice president of marketing, David Goldman, told Lifewire in an email interview.

Slimmer Is Better With AR

Lumus says the key to slimmer AR is its new optical design which features a visual engine that is 50 percent smaller than the previous generation. The new architecture also allows for more flexibility for glasses manufacturers to place the entrance aperture in various positions. The design also features a 2k x 2k resolution and a brightness of 3,000 nits, which the company claims will enable wearers to use augmented reality in daylight. 

"Another area Lumus is different from the competition is color uniformity. This means that, unlike all other waveguides, Lumus waveguides do not need to break up and re-assemble color," Goldman said. "Our single waveguides use mirrors to reflect the true color directly to the wearer's eyes. Most of the competing waveguides need 2-3 waveguides for each eye to achieve RGB (red, green, blue) for the full-color spectrum."

Lumus AR glasses concept


Technology like Z-Lens could finally push AR glasses into the mainstream, analyst Bob Bilbruck, the CEO at Captjur, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"Nobody wants to use bulky and clunky glasses to experience AR," he added. "Also, the more compact and comfortable the footprint for these glasses get, the more widely used in everyday life they will be, thus helping to enhance our daily routines and really maxing out the ability AR could have in improving our everyday lives and tasks that we do."

But Jason Yim, CEO of mixed reality development firm Trigger XR, said that reduced weight is only one of the areas where AR glasses need to improve before most people will want to wear them. He said the display must also show full-color 3D content accurately placed in the user's environment. 

"Many physical components are needed to achieve this, so the challenge is fitting all these in a small enough form factor to be 'thin,'" he added. "Anything less, and the tech will feel half-baked and not worth the effort."

Processing power is also crucial, Yim said. The glasses must be powerful enough to offer a great deal of utility like your smartphone. 

"Processing is expensive and generates a lot of heat," he added. "So you'll see many glasses starting as being tethered to the smartphone, either with a cable or wirelessly. If the AR glasses are only good at doing one thing, say "watching movies hands-free," they will not be quickly adopted."

The Future of AR

Lumus isn't the only company trying to make smaller AR glasses. AR device manufacturer Vuzix offers light, thin designs that resemble a standard pair of glasses. One device it showed off recently even allows people to see in the infrared spectrum

"The battle for the broader market has always been between immersive functionality and sleek design," Paul Travers, CEO of Vuzix, told Lifewire via email. "No one wants to wear an obvious gadget on their face."

AR glasses have a ways to go before they get small enough to wear comfortably and powerful enough to use advanced software. But once those goals are met, Goldman suggested that one killer app might be holographic telepresence, which allows users to project realistic, full-motion, 3D images in real-time.

"From real-time translation to reading the news on the subway, ordering a coffee on the way to work, following directions in real-time to a hidden restaurant in town, to taking calls with family and friends," he added. "AR glasses don't limit consumers to a screen in their pocket—they help users get out of the house and start looking up with heads-up, hands-free interaction."

Looking for more 2023 CES coverage? Check out all of Lifewire's CES news right here.

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