I first saw RealWear in action a few years ago at RealComm in Nashville, an industry conference for Commercial and Corporate Real Estate, with a keen interest in workplace efficiencies and facilities management. I had come to the show to participate on a panel for AR & VR applications for CRE, and RealWear was another one of the presenters.

Up until that day, I had always thought of VR HMD’s and AR Glasses, well, as somewhat fragile devices to be treated with the utmost care. However, the speaker did something one does not easily forget; partway through the talk, he removed the headset from his head, raised his arm up and then threw it on the floor with considerable force. I think everyone straightened up in their chairs from the shock of it. Instead of exploding into broken bits and pieces, the headset landed about 10 feet away, bounced a couple of springy times, after which he fished it up off the floor and then put it back on his head.

The Navigator 500 had been beautifully designed to withstand a fall from at least several feet as well as significant force, and this put them in a category to successfully compete 1:1 with ruggedized handheld devices that could be fearlessly used in inherently rougher workplace environments. +1 team XR.

Fast forward to AWE 2023, and as I scanned the show floor for interesting demos, RealWear caught my eye again, especially since it had been some years since my last demo. It should have come then as no great surprise that the best demos would come from teams who have been at this a while. I was therefore pretty excited to demo their 2.0 version, the Navigator 520 with Kristen Naeini, RealWear’s Senior Training Specialist. After slipping it on and positioning the Rambo-style neoprene head strap that goes across one’s forehead, the thing that stood out the most was how intuitive the voice commands were, and also how even proximity to Kristen did not play a significant role in accidental activation.

The demo (see video below) definitely left me feeling like the companies who have defined their niche, and who have spent the last decade honing their devices and apps and moved into established working relationships with larger corporations like Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, and others, are really well-positioned to be the great unicorns of our industry. They will have done so by staying true to the course, and consistently delivering reliable, cutting-edge solutions for everyday use.

RealWear’s efforts are not going unnoticed, and in addition to the numerous awards they have won over the years, such as their 2019 AUGGIE Award for “Best Headworn Device, they also just won “Best Manufacturing and Industrial Solution” at XR Awards 2023 in June of this year. The extensive RealWear App Store also includes apps you use all the time such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, but it also includes a selection of training, workflow, remote assistance, and inspection apps, so if you are looking for a new way to get things done hands-free on the job, I would take a serious look. Now I just wish I had an inspection or two to do so that I could get my own pair of the Navigator 520 to demo at a job site.

AR Insider’s Editor-at-Large Emily Olman is an XR community builder, roving journalist, and CEO & Chief Media Officer of Hopscotch Interactive.

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