Color blind glasses

TCL Joins Race to Create AR Smart Glasses, Challenging Meta and Eventually Apple

TCL’s conceptual smart glasses blend elements of augmented reality and virtual reality.


This story is part of THOSE, where CNET covers the latest news on the most amazing technology to come.

TCL, best known in the United States for its good value for money televisions, is now looking to get into glasses with a new concept in smart glasses that he announced before CES 2022. The Chinese electronics maker is joining tech giants like Facebook parent company Meta, Microsoft, Oppo, Snap and Apple to explore the potential of augmented and virtual reality.

A teaser video for TCL’s smart glasses has shown that they are used to participate in video meetings, view step-by-step instructions about your surroundings, take and share photos, use multiple virtual screens for work, and even start your car. TCL’s concept does not yet have a release date as it is a prototype, but the company hopes to show a working version around Mobile World Congress in February.

TCL’s glasses feature a binocular, micro-LED color display that uses optical holographic waveguide technology to display information and images. Waveguide is a technology widely used in AR smart glasses such as Air Glass recently announced by Oppo, and can even be found in glasses of Nokia and Vuzix as early as 2013. TCL’s Conceptual Glasses have a touchscreen on the right side for navigation, and they are powered by a Qualcomm 4100 processor.

TCL refers to the concept as XR glasses, indicating that they will combine elements of augmented and virtual reality. Augmented reality displays digital images of your real environment, while virtual reality headsets replace your surroundings with computer-generated images. Meta Oculus Quest 2 is an example of a VR headset, while devices like the A magical leap and Google Glass are AR headsets.

The new concept differs significantly from TCL’s NxtWear G smart glasses, which are designed to serve as a 140-inch portable and portable display for entertainment. The company also announced a lighter version of these glasses called NxtWear Air at CES 2022.

TCL’s smart glasses prototypes are apparently designed to take on some of the responsibilities of smartphones and laptops. In some ways, they look like a polished, fancy version of Google Glass – which has never resonated with consumers and sparked privacy concerns. It has been almost 10 years since Google Glass has been announced, and we still haven’t seen a commercially successful pair of smart glasses. (Google eventually pivoted its approach with Glass to target corporate consumers instead.)

Stefan Streit, TCL Marketing Director, is well aware of the challenges of developing a new type of laptop. That’s why the company’s smart glasses are still in the concept stage right now. The company is still figuring out key details – like how the interface works and what types of services and apps make sense – but it also takes privacy concerns into consideration, which could help avoid criticisms that Google Glass has faced.

“It feels like there are still a lot of question marks [with] how that works in this AR world, “Streit told CNET.” And they haven’t gotten a response yet. “

Headsets like virtual reality glasses are still nowhere near as ubiquitous as the smartphone, but the industry is certainly growing. According to International data company, global VR headset shipments grew 52.4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021 alone, in part thanks to the popularity of VR gaming and fitness apps. Meta is currently the largest player in the industry with almost 75% of the market, according to the IDC.

Although TCL is best known for its televisions, it is still relatively new to the US smartphone market, which is largely dominated by Apple and Samsung. The introduction of the AR smart glasses, even as a concept, indicates that TCL doesn’t want to miss out on what could be the next major evolution of the personal computer.

The company is certainly not the only one in this regard. Snapchat’s parent company Snap also unveiled AR smart glasses which can map 3D effects to the wearer’s environment in May. Meta launched a pair of camera glasses in September called the Ray-Ban stories, which he seen as a step towards a more ambitious pair of AR compatible smart glasses. Apple is rumored to be working on a pair of AR smart glasses as well, according to Bloomberg, although it may not be launched for years.