Hands-On, Wearable

The Oppo Air Glass Feels Like Something Out of Science Fiction

Augmented reality glasses haven’t really taken off despite being in the market for so long, but the Oppo Air Glass could change things up. Not only does it feel surreal to use, it will also be sold as a consumer-ready product – something that cannot be said of the popular Google Glass, which is an enterprise-only product today.

After trying out the Air Glass for myself, I’m actually quite excited to get it. Its use case scenarios are quite limited at the moment, but the whole user experience – based on my brief time with the AR glass – feels very polished, and…well, straight out of science fiction.

It’s worth noting that the Air Glass is described by Oppo as an “assisted reality” device, so it doesn’t overlay 3D objects onto the real world. Instead, it projects information into your field of view through the glass; just like the Google Glass, basically.

So what kind of information can be displayed on the Air Glass? Well, I like to think of it as a smartwatch; whatever information that a smartwatch can show, so can this AR glass. These include notifications, directions, the weather, and you can even check on your upcoming events with the calendar.

But to me, the coolest feature of the Air Glass has to be its ability to do real-time translation. Unfortunately, the unit I tested was only able to support English to Mandarin translation; it wasn’t able to do the reverse, much to my chagrin.

For what it’s worth, the on-screen translation that was displayed on the Air Glass seemed to be quite fast and responsive. But since I don’t speak or read Chinese, I…wasn’t able to verify the accuracy of the translation.

Anyway, in order to project these information to the Air Glass, Oppo uses its “self-developed Spark Micro Projector.” Powered by a Micro LED, the projector has a brightness of up to 3 million nits, though this translates to 1,400 nits in actual use, which is still plenty bright for everyday use. As you can see in the image above, the projections look sharp and bright.

Navigating through the interface of the Air Glass is quite intuitive too. There are four different methods to control the Air Glass: touch, voice, hand motion (when paired to an Oppo Watch 2), and get this, even head movement. I only managed to try out the touch controls, which feels quite responsive.

You can control the Air Glass with the touch-sensitive strip on the “stalk” that’s connected to the lens. Swiping on this strip allows me to cycle through the different pages of the Glass. Tapping on it, on the other hand, confirms my selection.

Speaking of which, I’m really not a fan of the Air Glass’ bulky stalk, especially in this white colourway. I imagine the black one wouldn’t look quite as jarring when worn, but the sheer size of the module still doesn’t look particularly pleasing to the eyes – in my opinion, anyway.

Bundled with the Air Glass are two choices of frames: a silver half-frame, or a black full-frame. Both frame styles can be fitted with prescription lenses, and they are also available in two sizes. The AR glass itself attaches magnetically to the frame in a secure manner, and weighing only 30g, the Air Glass doesn’t feel awkward at all when worn.

Oh, the Air Glass’ lens is also made of sapphire glass, which is quite scratch-resistant. Basically, you won’t have to worry (too much) about scratching it, but given the more brittle nature of sapphire glass, there is a chance is it more prone to cracking if you ever drop it.

All things considered, I really like the Oppo Air Glass. Sure, it doesn’t offer any groundbreaking new feature, but the novelty of it is quite compelling to me. Plus, as someone who needs glasses, I like the fact that I can just wear the frame on a daily basis, and only attach the Glass when I need it for specific purposes.

That being said, the Air Glass does have some notable shortcomings. For one, it only works with Oppo phones running on ColorOS 11 or above at the moment. This is because the Glass relies on Oppo-specific software for the majority of its features.

Aside from that, the Air Glass will only see a “limited release” in China sometime in Q1 2022. It remains to be seen if it will ever be sold in other markets, much like the Oppo Find N foldable phone. Granted, parallel importers will likely bring in the AR glass anyway, but given that it’s not designed for use outside of China, its features may be limited.

More importantly, we still don’t know how much the Air Glass retails at. As compelling as it is, if it’s priced too exorbitantly, consumers may not be as keen to pick it up.

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