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The World of XR Headsets in May 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: 11 hours ago

Expert Insight Series #2


As we venture deeper into 2024, the landscape of extended reality (XR) headsets continues to evolve at a rapid pace. With new players entering the market and established brands pushing the boundaries of innovation, it can be challenging to navigate the vast array of options available. In this article, we'll dive into the world of XR headsets, exploring the best consumer devices, future-ready developer kits, enterprise solutions, and even a glimpse into the near future.



So, let's put on our virtual helmets and embark on this immersive journey together!

Index



 

Best Consumer Headsets in 2024: Entertainment, Gaming, and Beyond


Meta Quest 3:


The Meta Quest 3 is currently the most affordable mixed reality headset on the market, priced at $500. Although it's $250 more than its predecessor, the Quest 2, it's still a whopping $3,000 less than the Apple Vision Pro.


Powered by the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 processor, the Quest 3 boasts improved graphics, a higher-resolution display, better lenses, and redesigned controllers. With its passthrough color cameras, it seamlessly blends the virtual and real worlds.


The Quest platform offers a wealth of content, including hundreds of games, creative apps, and productivity tools. It even doubles as a fitness device, with several effective cardio workout programs. The Quest 3 supports both hand tracking and traditional controllers, giving users the flexibility to choose their preferred input method.


Meta Quest 2:

Despite the arrival of its successor, the Meta Quest 2 remains a top choice for those seeking an affordable and versatile VR headset. It operates as a standalone device, requiring only a smartphone for initial setup.


While the Quest 3 may be the superior product, the Quest 2 still holds its own, offering a wide range of experiences within its ecosystem.


Valve Index:


Valve's headset, although not as cutting-edge as it was upon its 2020 debut, still shines with its excellent SteamVR compatibility, impressive audio quality, and innovative controllers. The "knuckle" controllers are pressure-sensitive and can track all five fingers, providing a glove-like experience.


While not all apps fully utilize this feature, the Index's hardware is mix-and-match compatible with the HTC Vive, which also runs on the SteamVR platform. The Index's audio is top-notch, but its display resolution has been surpassed by newer competitors.


One drawback is the need for external room sensors for tracking.


ByteDance Pico 4:

Pico 4

For those seeking a middle ground between the basic Meta Quest 2 and the pricier Quest 3 and Valve Index, the ByteDance Pico 4 is an excellent alternative. Like the Quest 3, it features pancake lenses, resulting in a compact form factor and enhanced comfort. The 2160 x 2160 LCD panels deliver high-fidelity visuals, although the field of view and refresh rate fall slightly short of Meta's latest offering.


The Pico 4 includes full-color passthrough, extensive adjustability, and is comfortable for users who wear glasses.


However, availability may be limited in certain regions, and it is primarily preferred by enterprise users looking to avoid the Meta ecosystem. While it's a capable device, the Pico 4 lacks a strong content ecosystem catering to a broad audience.


Meta Quest Pro:


Last year's pricey Quest headset, equipped with eye-tracking technology and a crisp display, allowed for facial expression tracking. However, the more affordable Quest 3 has already rendered it obsolete with its superior graphics, cameras, and display resolution.


PlayStation VR 2:


The PSVR 2, priced at $550, requires a PlayStation 5 to function and is a tethered, non-wireless headset. Its HDR OLED display, exceptional graphics quality, built-in eye tracking, and advanced controllers (which feature the same vibrations and adaptive force-feedback triggers as the PS5 DualSense controllers) give this headset a premium feel, elevating the performance of its best games.


While it has the potential to host top PC VR games, it already boasts exclusives like Gran Turismo 7, Resident Evil Village, and Horizon: Call of the Mountain. However, the PSVR 2 currently lacks any social metaverse-type software and feels more geared towards launching and playing VR games.


HTC Vive XR Elite:


The HTC Vive XR Elite feels like a glimpse into the future of VR and AR, with its bug-eyed, glossy goggles aiming to make smaller, self-contained mixed reality a reality. However, this tiny, portable dream comes with a few complications.


In addition to the foldable goggles, there's a battery pack strap, VR controllers, and an optional adapter for users who wear glasses. The XR Elite is a kit, similar to the Meta Quest Pro, but it offers the flexibility to strip it down to a smaller size and run from a separate battery pack or laptop.



 

Headsets for Future-Ready Developers


Apple Vision Pro:



The Vision Pro has undoubtedly reignited excitement in the XR industry. With its unmatched user experience and passthrough clarity, Apple has once again delivered a remarkable first-generation product. Although the weight is a slight concern, third-party accessories may address this issue.


The interoperability with the Apple ecosystem is another key advantage, and while there may be a limited selection of content and experiences available at launch, this is expected to grow over time.


For developers and studios looking to capitalize on the Apple XR ecosystem, this developer kit is a must-have to be future-ready. Despite its high price point, the Vision Pro combines the best technologies, components, and platform that Apple has to offer, with room for improvement in future iterations.




Lynx-R1:


The Lynx-R1 mixed-reality headset is reminiscent of the Meta Quest Pro in terms of design and capabilities. Powered by a Snapdragon XR2 Gen 1 chipset, it features six cameras for tracking position, hands, and full-color passthrough, allowing users to enjoy both virtual and mixed reality experiences. The battery serves as a counterweight to the front screen panel, enhancing comfort. The screen lacks light blockers by default, enabling users to always see the real world to the left, right, and below the display, which is ideal for mixed reality but may be distracting in virtual reality.


The Lynx R1's primary selling point is its "Privacy by Design" approach, providing developers with open access to its system and giving users clear information and control over their data. This headset could be a significant player in the enterprise, defense, education, and healthcare sectors, where data security is paramount.


As they begin fulfilling pre-orders, the Lynx R1 is a must-have for developers and studios looking to be future-ready with their software solutions.


 


Best Headsets for Enterprise Use Cases


Xreal (formerly Nreal):

Xreal has shipped 30,000 units and is gaining traction in the enterprise space. As a see-through AR headset, it is starting to incorporate SLAM technology. While it is evolving from a HUD towards an AR headset, it is limited by its birdbath architecture display, which only allows 25% see-through and blocks 75% of light, resulting in a larger size.


Vuzix:


Vuzix, a publicly-traded company founded in 1997, offers a wide range of see-through and non-see-through devices for industrial and enterprise use. Most of their devices come in a glasses form factor and are designed for rugged industrial applications.


They offer both monocular and binocular devices. Their latest Ultralite series features monocular, single-color HUD displays for enterprise use cases, providing basic data information in a portable and compact form factor.



Lenovo:


Lenovo's ThinkReality A3 hybrid smart glasses offer flexibility for mixed reality on the go. The A3 connects to either a PC or smartphone via a customized USB cable. When connected to a smartphone, Lenovo provides a native augmented reality interface within the lenses, enabling the use of Android apps in open space. When connected to a PC, the host device manages the virtual displays. Lenovo developed the smartphone experience for Android rather than simply screen mirroring because, even though the A3 leverages the processing, battery, and connectivity of the smartphone, the company views the glasses as an independent device with its own navigation needs.


The ThinkReality VRX is an all-in-one enterprise VR headset powered by the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 1 Platform. It offers an immersive, lightweight, slim profile, and six degrees of freedom (6DoF), supported by a full suite of end-to-end services.


Magic Leap:


With recent funding from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, Magic Leap has reignited its focus on the enterprise market. The company has found a new revenue stream in manufacturing and licensing intellectual property for crucial components in AR devices that overlay images upon real-world surroundings.


The Magic Leap 2 is a true AR device that uses transparent lenses, eliminating screens for safer, more comfortable, and natural interactions by integrating visuals directly into users' environments.


DPVR:


DPVR is an up-and-coming Virtual Reality brand that dominates the Asian VR market with its successful P1 and E3 lineup. They plan to conquer Europe as well with their affordable, high-quality VR headsets.


The DPVR P1 and P1 4K Pro are well-built standalone VR headsets with an attractive appearance, reminiscent of the Oculus Go and Pico G2 4K in terms of size and weight. These headsets are widely used for education use cases and projects requiring basic 3DoF entry-level experiences at a low cost, making them ideal for mass-scale deployment.


The DPVR E3 4K is a PC-controlled 3DoF VR headset that leverages the graphical power of the computer to display games and applications impressively. However, it is always attached to a cable, and the 3DoF head tracking only allows users to look around rather than physically walk through a virtual space. The E3 4K is primarily used in arcades and other location-based entertainment venues, serving as a cheaper alternative for a basic PC VR headset.


Digilens:


The Digilens Argo headband features an ergonomic flip-up design and a full-color see-through AR display.



Sightful:


Sightful offers a laptop keyboard accessory for Xreal glasses, essentially a laptop without a display.






TCL:

The TCL RayNeo X2 and RayNeo X2 Lite feature a 30-degree FOV, binocular full-color Micro-LED optical waveguide displays, and are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Platform. These headsets are designed for enterprise use cases.



 

Outdated but Still Popular Headsets


HoloLens:

Although outdated, the HoloLens and the Hololens 2 remains a choice for enterprise solutions seeking a reliable see-through mixed reality headset. Its primary value lies in enterprise and business projects. The medical industry, for example, is expected to benefit greatly from the possibilities offered by HoloLens.


The technology has also received a widely positive response from industries involved in space exploration and research.


 

Headsets to Watch for in the Near Future


Nimo Planet:


Nimo offers a computer module for AR headsets. Their Nimo 1 headset is based on Letin AR technology. The computer module works with any headset that accepts video input, currently compatible with Rokid and Xreal, along with any wireless keyboard.


It features basic inertial tracking and runs on NimoOS, a custom Android-based operating system.





dotLumen:


dotLumen is developing an AR headset for the blind, featuring no display and aiming to provide spatial cues of the surrounding world to assist blind individuals.




Ocutrx Oculenz:


The Ocutrx Oculenz features a ~70° birdbath display and was originally designed for the visually impaired. It helps people who have lost central vision to see through their peripheral vision. However, the high price and limited demand or medical insurance coverage may hinder its adoption.


Tilt-5:


Tilt-5 focuses on tabletop applications, targeting entertainment and gaming use cases.


 

Audio Glasses with AI


Meta Ray-Ban Glasses:

Meta's $299 smart glasses, made in partnership with Ray-Ban, are a premium wearable that can perform "smart" functions. They can capture photos and videos when voice-prompted, play music and podcasts via your phone, and answer curious questions with a built-in Meta AI. These glasses are easily the best for content capturing and audio listening. With more time, practice, and user insights, the Meta Ray-Bans may also become the best for AI.


Solos:

Solos offers a swappable design and real-time translation capabilities.



Meizu MyVu AR/AI Glasses:

The Meizu MyVu AR/AI Glasses are AI-enabled binocular and color heads-up display glasses. They provide real-time translation for 10 languages, eliminating language barriers. The AI captures conversations and meeting notes, making it easy to organize important content. AR prompts help users remember key points during presentations, and with AI as a personal assistant, brainstorming sessions become more productive.


Weighing only 40 grams, the glasses connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to iPhone or Android phones. The battery lasts for 4-5 hours of continuous use, sufficient for daily activities, sports, and a full day of work. AR brings a new dimension to the office experience.



 

The Dream of AR Contact Lenses


Would the world we saw in Black mirror be a near possible future? I'm not sure, but there are a couple companies surely working towards that exciting future.



Mojo Vision:


The AR lens dream was a long shot and possibly a gimmick for Mojo Vision. Mojo Vision has now shifted its focus to becoming a spatial color microLED company, providing microLEDs as products.




Xpanceo:


Xpanceo is also working on AR lens technologies, claiming to be ready by 2028. However, early prototypes or demos have yet to be seen.

For more on Xpanceo - read here



 

As we wrap up this comprehensive guide to the world of XR headsets in May 2024, it's evident that the industry is brimming with innovation and potential. From consumer-friendly devices to enterprise solutions and future-ready developer kits, there's no shortage of options to suit various needs and preferences. As technology continues to advance, we can expect even more groundbreaking developments in the years to come.


While this article aims to provide a thorough overview of the XR headset landscape, it's important to note that the information presented here is a compilation of various resources. Although I have had the privilege of trying most of these headsets, I cannot claim to have hands-on experience with all of them. The insights shared are a result of extensive research and analysis.


As you explore the fascinating world of XR headsets, remember that the true potential of this technology lies in its ability to transform the way we interact with digital content, connect with others, and perceive the world around us. Whether you're a casual user, a professional, or an enthusiast, there's never been a better time to dive into the immersive realm of extended reality.


So, buckle up and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the ever-evolving landscape of XR headsets!

Written by: Sanan Goyal Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sanangoyal/




 








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