Hollywood had us dreaming about augmented reality way before “metaverse” became an overhyped buzzword. Of course, fiction and reality don’t always see eye-to-eye, pun intended, and experiencing this augmented reality has been less than ideal, if not unreachable, for most people. The problem has been making AR hardware available and accessible to more people, not to mention comfortable to wear, unlike your typical helmet-like headsets. AR glasses are the ideal solution, but the technology just isn’t completely there yet to make that happen. In the meantime, creative and adventurous people are making their own designs and interpretations of this largely unexplored territory, and this open source device turns any eyewear into AR glasses, though with a very distinct aesthetic that might look a tad ridiculous to some.
Designer: Brilliant Labs
The AR hardware problem has always been a matter of size. While gear like the Microsoft HoloLens or even the new Meta Quest Pro is powerful, they’re also bulky and heavy. AR glasses, on the other hand, not only have significantly limited hardware but also have to make sure that the wearer’s line of sight is still clear. Putting a display in front of both eyes might seem ideal, but just having the screen on one or the other eye is more realistic.
This is the kind of design that the defunct Google Glass adopted, and Monocle has taken it to the extreme. Just like its namesake, it’s a circular device that goes over just one eye, leaving the other free of any obstruction. Unlike existing AR glasses today, though, it doesn’t come as a complete eyewear product. Instead, you clip the Monocle onto any pair of glasses, which is especially useful if you wear a prescription.
The device isn’t exactly the sleekest way to get an AR experience with your regular glasses. It has to be thick to hold all the electronics in a single piece, including a 720p camera, a 640×400 OLED display, Bluetooth, and a battery. It’s pretty much a small, partly transparent puck that you attach to your glasses, ensuring that everyone will know you’re looking at them with more than just your human eyes.
What makes Monocle different from commercial AR gear is that both its software and its design are open source. Anyone with enough knowledge, experience, and patience could, in theory, do their own thing, perhaps tweaking the design to make it perhaps a bit less conspicuous. For the rest of us, however, Brilliant Labs is selling the finished product for $349, which includes a charging case in the box.