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Wearable Tech

Toshiba's Windows 10 AR glasses is augmented reality for the workplace

I clipped on a mini Windows 10 Pro PC and tried out DynaEdge AR Smart Glasses. Turns out, industrial AR is a whole different game than consumer AR.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

I don't get to wear a hard hat to work all that often. This one has a heads-up display on the side. It reminds me of using Google Glass. Or, many other single-lens types of AR that use heads-up displays instead of any holographic effects.

In essence: it feels unexciting. But it's not designed to be wild and crazy: it's designed to work properly. Fast video calls to show what someone is seeing in the field. Checking instructions. Getting annotated notes. Reporting photos and video back to offsite bosses to document what's being worked on.

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Toshiba's newest smart glass for Windows is for enterprise and field work, not everyday consumers. It's practical AR. Toshiba's solution aims to work with Windows 10, instead of a stand-alone or mobile platform. And it made me realize that AR for mission-critical fields is a totally different proposition than AR for everyone else.

The Toshiba dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses are an $1899 bundle that includes Toshiba's compact Windows 10 Pro clip-on PC (the dynaEdge DE-100 Mobile PC) and a head-mounted clip-on display (the dynaEdge AR 100 Head Mounted Display) made by Vuzix, a company that's already made tons of similar smartglass products. The PC part debuted last year, but the glasses part is new.

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The head-mounted display slots into several accessories.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The adjustable display comes with frames that sit on top of regular glasses, but can also slot into a glasses-like pair of work goggles and, yes, a hard hat. It slots into accessories easily, sort of like the controllers on the Nintendo Switch.

Toshiba's dynaEdge is a super-small PC, but less powerful than Intel's VR-capable NUC. It's got an Intel Core M processor, enough to drive the Smart Glasses' single display. Toshiba's AR doesn't do much, though, by design. A simple d-pad on the PC's body handles navigation through menus, and there's also a touchpad on the arm of the head-mounted HUD. You can start a Skype call, take photos and video, look up documents to display, and run programs that guide wearers to scan QR codes in factory-type settings. That's about it.

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The clip-on mobile PC part.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Notably absent is any voice-based AI or any voice transcription. Namely, because errors made via AI could result in mission-critical errors in the field. In that sense, workplace AR is a lot different than experimental, always-in-beta consumer AR. It's about helping and being instantly available, like a phone. The Smart Glasses were simple to use, unimpressive-looking, and I was able to get started intuitively.

And the "easy" part is exactly what most AR is usually missing. I'm not a field worker, I don't work in factories, and I have no idea if Toshiba's proposal is any better than other solutions like Epson's Moverio glasses, Microsoft's Hololens, Daqri's AR headwear, or even Google Glass (which is still around). But if an industrial workplace was all-Windows, maybe it's worth looking into.