It might come as a surprise to many that the first augmented reality device I used was over a decade ago, that too to watch movies in 3D. That was the Epson Moverio BT-100 smart glasses launched in 2012. Now, we are once again talking about smart glasses and face computers thanks to Apple’s Vision Pro ‘spatial computer’ which is expected to usher in a whole new phase of technology. And this is why when I got a call to review the Rokid AR glasses, I jumped on the opportunity.
The Rokid AR Glasses look and wear like regular goggles, though the lens is a bit heavy and thick so that content can be projected inside. There is a cover on the front to block out the external world when you are watching content and I preferred using the glasses this way most of the time. Without it, you project the image into your surroundings and you are aware of what is happening around you. This makes more sense where we have proper AR apps to use, not when you are watching a movie on Hotstar or Prime Video. The glasses have volume controls on one side and A USB-C port on the other for you to stream content in from the Rokid Controller. In fact, the glasses are a prism to project the content with no battery or software abilities of its own.
The Rokid Controller is like a large Android TV remote with buttons offering similar controls. However, its size is because of the battery inside that offers up to 5 hours of streaming with the glasses. You can charge the controller and watch content even as you are charging, which is great, except for the tangle of wires it creates. The controller is quite easy to use, and as an Android TV user, there was no learning for me here. In fact, in the box, there was a regular Android remote too, which I did not have to use at all.
I was a bit sceptical at first about using the Rokid glasses as my experience with AR/VR headsets has not been great, especially since I have prescription glasses. However, I was more than happy with the diopter adjustment inside the glasses which let me tune the clarity of the image in each of the lenses exactly to my power. Also, the glasses are relatively light doesn’t make it tough to move your head like some of the others I have used. Yes, it is heavier than regular goggles, but nowhere near as heavy as VR headsets.
Once you switch on the connected controller, you realise that this is just an Android TV. As I was staring at the same home screen as my OnePlus TV. This also means you should not expect the Rokid to be a face computer, it is not. This is a consumption device and that’s why it’s powered by the Android TV OS.
Once you start watching an app like YouTube, you realise the power of this device. The screen is large and feels many times bigger than my 65-inch TV. There is no 360-degree effect possible and you are looking at a regular flat screen, but the rest of the area is blanked out and you are immersed into the visuals within no time. The inside of the glasses house speakers and you can clearly hear the dialogues and music, though to really get into the mood I would suggest pairing with noise cancelling earphones.
I watched a full episode of a Malayalam comedy serial I am addicted to and the experience was quite good. At the end of the 20 minutes, I was not tired at all. And thanks to the touchpad on the controller it is not at all hard to navigate the screen or select videos to play.
You can connect to any of the apps you have on the Google Play Store. In fact, you can download and play games too, but that experience will be best with a paired game controller and not the remote. I tried my hand at Shark Evolution and enjoyed the experience as it was easy to control with the remote. You can play better games too and the Rokid Controller is powerful enough to handle it.
To push the envelope a bit, I downloaded a browser and logged in to The Indian Express website. And this is when I realised that this could be a whole new way to consume content. The Rokid Glasses gave me the opportunity to focus on the articles without and distraction. It helped that reading was not strained despite me not wearing my glasses.
After using the Rokid Glasses for over a week I am convinced this could open up a new consumption pattern if the devices become affordable to more users. For one, this is easy to use and does not need any apps that are specialised. Also, you can use it anywhere and given how compact and small the entire unit is, I would rather carry this on my next domestic flight than pack the iPad just to watch a movie.
On the flip side, I still don’t get a good feeling after using this device for longer than five minutes. It is a bit disorienting after you take off an AR device after a long session and it takes time to recover. The audio quality of the device is just about okay, so you will need wireless headphones handy to get a good experience. The battery life of five hours is good, but then if you are planning to take this on a long-haul flight you will need to think of packing a battery pack to charge it up. Also, there are times when I got a sense the battery was draining faster.
At Rs 74,999 for the entire kit, the Rokid AR Glasses and Controller combo is a personal entertainment investment that gives you a sense of the future and creates a personal space that you don’t have to share with anyone. The technology is now good enough for mass adoption, while the price is not. And there is no AR element here as such, this is a personal movie theatre you will enjoy.
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First uploaded on: 11-02-2024 at 13:13 IST