Assignment #9: Student's Choice Topics Review23 Nov 2018
This week we concluded with the presentations for student’s choice topics in our CS 491 class. Each student had put in a lot of effort in creating their presentations. In this post, I will be reviewing two technologies – Vuzix Blade, presented by Ryan Nishimoto, and Holosuit by Latika Bhurani.
Please note that I am no expert, and the thoughts expressed here are merely my opinions.
Review 1: Vuzix Blade
I chose to review these glasses because in our class, we have been talking a lot about the future of Augmented Reality eyewear, which one can wear all the time, and how it will affect our daily lives, or the way we interact with our world. When Ryan presented the topic in front of the class, all I could think of was, could this be it! – the ideal AR glasses? So, I had to take a closer look and find out myself. You may read Ryan Nishimoto’s analysis of the topic on his website here.
Feature-Packed Vuzix Blade AR smart glasses with Advanced Waveguide Optics
The Vuzix Blade smart AR glasses are, as claimed by Vuzix, the “World’s FIRST AR Smart Glasses with Wave-Guide Technology”. Unlike Google Glass, which uses a reflective waveguide technology to beam augmentations directly into the user’s retina, Vuzix Blade uses diffractive waveguide technology, which is the same technology used by Microsoft Hololens. This technique uses slanted diffraction gratings to let parallel rays of light enter the waveguide at a particular angle, then, the light travels through the waveguide using the principle of total internal reflection, and finally, the light is extracted to the eye with another set of slanted gratings.
The use of diffractive waveguide technology provides the following advantages over Google Glass’s reflective waveguide technique. Firstly, the size of the waveguide becomes very small, since the field of view does not depend on the size of reflector in this technique. In comparison, the size of the waveguide used by Google Glass is 1 cm! Secondly, it is more efficient than Google Glass since Google Glass suffers from a loss of light due to multiple reflections, first on a semi-reflective mirror, then on a curved surface, and then on another mirror.
However, the diffraction grating technique presents some key challenges:
- Manufacturing such displays is costly since this technology is not commonplace in the optics industry
- It produces color non-uniformity in the image due to the “rainbow effect”, meaning, the various reflected wavelengths don’t have the same amplitude when they encounter the diffraction pattern at an angle, which limits full color reproduction. In contrast, Google Glass does not suffer from this issue, since it uses a semi-reflective mirror
- This technology is intrinsically limited in field of view (FOV) due to the variation of spectral reflectivity vs. angle issue (which causes the “rainbow effect”). The higher the incidence angle, the higher the color non-uniformity. Higher angles are needed for higher FOV’s and if the FOV is increased beyond 20°, the color non-uniformity becomes very noticeable as the human eye is extremely sensitive the color non-uniformity variations
- It is less power efficient because of loss of light due to grating
In summary, while the glasses certainly look compact in comparison to other smart glasses that we have seen so far, they still suffer from key issues like small field of view and low resolution. Barring the above issues, I feel this is a great step ahead in the field of Augmented Reality glasses. The best part that I liked about these glasses was the ability to insert your prescription lenses, which allows people like me, who use prescription glasses, to use the Vuzix Blade without having to wear two glasses.
Review 2: Holosuit
The reason I chose to review this technology is that it is very similar to the technology that I presented in front of the class – the Teslasuit – and I wanted to see how they stack up against each other. You may read up more about the Teslasuit here on my website. This topic was presented by Latika Bhurani and you may read her analysis of the topic on her website here.
Holosuit – World’s first consumer friendly, bi-directional, full body motion controller with haptic feedback
First of all I was surprised and proud to see such a suit being developed in a startup hailing from my home country – India! The startup scene is growing dramatically in India, and this suit is a nice example of what Indian startups are capable of. It was interesting to see how the Holosuit team was able to pull of the development of this suit with a meagre funding of $50,000!
However, on a closer look, the lack of funding shows in the suit. In comparison to the Teslasuit, the Holosuit suffers from the following drawbacks:
- Build quality looks cheap in comparison to Teslasuit’s premium look and feel
- The Haptic feedback system seems to be motor-based, also known as vibro-tactile feedback, as opposed to the superior electro-tactile feedback technology used by the Teslasuit. Use of vibration motors in a full-body suit does not make sense to me, since it will be more of a distraction in a virtual reality experience rather than be immersive
- Holosuit lacks the climate control and the biometric systems offered by the Teslasuit
The holosuit is way too costly for an “affordable” suit. The standard version of the suit is priced at $1,699, and the pro version is priced at $2,699. In contrast, the Teslasuit is expected to be priced “slightly higher than gaming consoles” (source), which puts it somewhere around $600 to $1,500 – surprisingly cheap for the features it packs!
Edit (01/25/2020): According to a Teslasuit representative, the suit is only available for wholesale at variable price and is not for retail.
In summary, while the suit is a commendable attempt at bringing haptics into the VR world, it’s hard to say that this will be successful in the consumer market when pitched against the Teslasuit. KaayaTech, the creators of Holosuit, will need to work on the aforementioned shortcomings if they wish to compete against Teslasuit. A relatively cheap price point and improvement in the build quality can deliver a quick win for them.
Links to reviewed student’s choice topics
- Vuzix Blade Smart Glasses, by Ryan Nishimoto
- Holosuit – Bidirectional full body motion controller with haptics, by Latika Bhurani
- Vuzix Blade® | Augment Reality (AR) Smart Glasses for the Consumer
- Affordable AR Displays: Focus on Optical See-Through Waveguide Technologies for AR Glasses, by Kayvan Mirza and Khaled Sarayeddine | Optinvent
- Haptic VR Suit HoloSuit: will be released in 2018, price announced | OptoCrypto
- Teslasuit - Full Body Haptic VR Suit at CES 2018 | Digital Trends