Whether or not lofty sales projections for Oculus and other VR devices come true, there is no question that the availability of a complete developer kit from Oculus has helped kickstart the industry. Until now, Augmented Reality (AR) has been lacking a well-thought-out developer platform that challenged the capabilities of VR. Wave guide provider Lumus and software developer InfinityAR have partnered to provide exactly that. The Lumus DK-50 developer kit will include not just the DK-50 AR glasses, but also a version of InfinityAR’s markerless AR tracking system.
The DK-50 breaks new ground in AR
When I first demoed a Lumus wave-guide-equipped pair of glasses last year, I was very impressed by not just the realistic projection of objects into my field of view, but the very wide field of view. It is similar to (and some speculate the same as) that found in the original Microsoft HoloLens prototype (though more recent versions seem to have a narrower field of view). This is huge for AR, as existing devices force you to work or focus on only a small area — typically 22 to 26 degrees. The 40 degree FOV provided by Lumus makes a very tangible difference.
Designed in concert with InfinityAR, the DK-50 also includes everything needed to support self-contained, markerless, AR tracking. It has a 9-axis IMU that includes both an accelerometer and magnetometer for motion tracking, twin 4MP cameras for stereo-vision-based object tracking, and two 720p optical engines for a convincing visual experience (Lumus expects to bump this up to 1080p later this year). Each optical engine consists of Lumus’s patented Light-Guide Optical Element (LOE), a reflective waveguide, and a Micro Display Pod, essentially a miniature projector. The DK-50 is expected to be available in Q2 this year, and while pricing has not been finalized, Lumus expects it to be around $3,000 including the needed software.
Can they pull it off?
While you may not have heard of Lumus, they have been providing optical solutions for AR applications in industry and defense for 15 years, so the technology itself is proven. Infinity AR is a newer player, and I think the acceptance of the DK-50 kit will depend in large part on how much performance developers can get out of their software running on the Android-powered Qualcomm Snapdragon in the hardware. The demos I saw looked good, and certainly good enough to develop with, but as Oculus has found, it can be a long road from something developers will work with and something that consumers will be happy to make a part of their everyday life.