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Rokid Glass voice-activated smartglasses try to improve AR

Rokid Glass is another initiative to try to improve AR with voice AI. Is this a key idea, or an added distraction?

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Will AI and gestures make heads-up AR displays better?

Sarah Tew/CNET

How do you interact with a pair of augmented-reality smartglasses? Maybe with your hands or a controller or a touchpad? Rokid, a Chinese company that's developed voice assistant-based products, believes the answer is voice.

Last year, Rokid unveiled a little Amazon Echo-alike called the Rokid Pebble at CES, which used an AI called Melody to attempt to one-up Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. This year, the Rokid Glass aims to show off its voice assistant for visuals. It joins an already crowded landscape in emergent smartglasses, including Vuzix's attempt to combine Amazon Alexa with AR smartglasses. It suggests that AI and AR may inevitably end up more interlinked.

The design feels like an extension of monocular glasses like the Google Glass. The Rokid Glass projects a single image using a 1080p embedded OLED with roughly a 40-degree field of view.

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AR feels like it's suffering from an explosion of hardware lately, and a lack of killer experiences. In fact, most AR smartglasses I've ever used are clunky. I haven't tried the Rokid Glass yet, but will voice AI do anything to improve the sense of disconnect I tend to have when experiencing immersive AR on headsets?

It sounds, rather, like voice assistance on a headset will help assistants improve more than AR. According to Rokid's press release, "By making Rokid's Voice AI assistant available on all types of [internet of things] devices, including a wearable like [the] Rokid Glass, user-specific data from not just static, but also out-of-home portable devices like wearables can be observed and analyzed for improved and personalized recommendations." 

I wore Rokid Glass, but the voice services weren't working. Instead, I tried a brief face-recognition demo and, well, that was about it. The Glass was a weird fit on my face, and like many smartglasses, I didn't see what the point was.

Maybe that's the real conclusion here: smartglasses for everyday use cases still feel like they're seeking a purpose that doesn't exist yet.

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