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PhotonLens Debuts with Shadow Creator, Announces First MR Glass with 6 DoF Controllers and Snapdragon XR2 Platform
At the World Conference on VR Industry in China last week, China’s Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance released its updated list of the top 50 XR companies in the country. The invite-only, government-run conference featured remarks by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and updated projections by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on the size of China’s VR industry for next year. Perhaps of most direct interest to the AR world though, was an announcement from Shadow Creator and Qualcomm announcing a partnership with UK-based startup PhotonLens.
With Shadow Creator serving as the ODM, PhotonLens and Shadow Creator announced plans to co-design Photons, an MR smart glass with wireless 6 DoF controllers, tethered to a touchscreen computing unit powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform, making Photons the first MR glass to use the XR2 platform and to feature wireless 6DoF controllers.
Speaking in August at AWE Asia, Shadow Creator alluded to the device, called Honghu in Chinese, after winning the Best Hardware Auggie Award for its JIMO device. During the announcement at WCVRI, Shadow Creator CEO Victor Sun stated, “Shadow Creator is co-designing an international, consumer-ready variant of the Honghu device with PhotonLens, with a special focus on active gaming and fitness.” Speaking about the Snapdragon XR2 platform, he offered that “With the powerful performance of the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform, our latest Honghu MR glasses have achieved a significant performance improvement, which can fully meet the diverse needs of consumers, operators, and industry customers.”
PhotonLens will shake up the MR gaming space: lightweight controllers and full head-to-hand tracking have long been a challenge in creating consumer-ready MR gaming experiences. PhotonLens will go a long way in solving these issues, as the Photons device will ship with dual 6 DoF wireless controllers with a compact measurement of 37.5x75x15mm each — small enough to fit in a user’s pockets. PhotonLens CEO Patrick Liu offered that “Through our ODM partnership, Photons will unlock new possibilities for consumer-ready MR gaming. Photons offer full 6 DoF head-to-hand tracking, without the need for external sensors.” Liu explained that PhotonLens managed to shrink the controllers with a hidden tracking light ring and a magnetic trigger button design. Liu went on to highlight the device’s SLAM algorithms which enable accurate positioning, down to the centimeter, allowing for gameplay indoors or outdoors.
Shortly after the conference, Sun stated that, “The PhotonLens team brings global perspective and a wealth of experience in mobile gaming and telecommunications to bear to the partnership. Our partnership with PhotonLens marks a new era for us as we seek to create a truly consumer-ready MR device that allows people to have fun with immersive media and games, without being isolated from the world or being limited to a small phone screen.”
PhotonLens President and Co-Founder Lisa Pan elaborated on the co-design component of the partnership, mentioning PhotonLens’ prior work in supporting London fashion house Ralph & Russo in running an XR-enabled fashion show in October. Pan also pointed out the light weight of the glasses (measuring 85 grams) and the symmetry of the device: the two small controllers when put together are the same size as the CPU touchscreen unit. As argued recently in AR Insider, for AR glasses to be widely adopted, they’ll need to balance visual quality with comfort, including not only weight, heat, and ergonomics, but also social comfort: smart glasses that scream “technology” still face a degree of social resistance and stigma in public spaces. This means that creating glasses that look and feel like everyday head ware is important for mass adoption.
PhotonLens will ship devices with fitness-focused games, including a boxing, surfing, and yoga game, as well as more classic arcade-like games. The company also plans to partner with select VR game studios to port their games to MR. According to Liu, Photons will be available for pre-order on Kickstarter in December of 2020 or January of 2021.