For a hot minute it looked like augmented reality was going to be a bold new arena for innovative gadgets. That might still be the case, but it seems little of that is going to make it down to the consumer level. Take the new ThinkReality A3 glasses from Lenovo: two different models are coming, both for the enterprise market.
The ThinkReality A3 PC Edition will connect to a standard Windows-powered laptop or desktop. The idea here is to give the user “virtual monitors”: the headset’s tiny projectors display the contents of a Windows screen, with its position relative to the user making it a lot like working with full-sized displays. It’s kind of like Iron Man’s holographic workstations, except you wear them on your head and use an old-fashioned mouse and keyboard to control everything.
Why? Lenovo says that in addition to the space and electricity savings of a conventional monitor array, you can look at sensitive materials in public while maintaining absolute privacy. The feature will be available on ThinkPad-branded devices, though there’s no reason it couldn’t work with any other hardware running Windows. Up to five virtual monitors can be shown at once.
The second version of the A3 is called the Industrial Edition, and it connects to “select Motorola smartphones.” (This requires DisplayPort-out functionality and at least a Snapdragon 800-series processor.) This headset is designed more for the whiz-bang use cases typically promoted with augmented reality devices, like training new users on factory equipment or adding contextual information to a retail space. It supports the existing ThinkReality platform, as do the older A6 and VR S3 designs.
The different models of the A3 are identical in terms of hardware, running on a Snapdragon XR1 system on a chip with dual 8MP cameras and 1080p resolution in each eye. Extra sensors enable room-scale tracking, and the headset gets both data and power via a single USB-C cable. Lenovo says that the ThinkReality A3 will be available in “select markets worldwide starting in mid-2021,” but doesn’t say how much they’ll cost.