Flex Launches AR Reference Design for Next-Gen Smart Glasses


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Flex has introduced an augmented reality (AR) reference design to reduce time to market for companies making AR devices for enterprise and consumer applications.

The Flex AR reference design is a complete product specification, including a head-mounted display (HMD), an external processing unit (EPU) and a gesture-based software platform to manage interaction. By customizing the rugged, stable and high-quality Flex AR reference design versus developing their own AR hardware, companies can significantly reduce product development costs and quickly scale manufacturing.

The Flex AR platform incorporates cutting edge technology from partners including the Snapdragon 835 mobile platform from Qualcomm, designed to deliver full-color, 1080p augmented reality experiences. The Snapdragon 835 draws 25 percent less power than previous models, using an advanced 10-nanometer design. Atheer Inc., a leading provider of AR solutions, supplies the AR interaction module and enterprise software support.

Total spending on AR/VR products and services is expected to soar from $11.4 billion in 2017 to nearly $215 billion in 2021, according to research firm IDC. AR headsets are on track to account for over $30 billion in revenue by 2021, almost twice that of VR hardware. The fastest-growing area within the AR market is for HMDs in industrial applications, particularly in the fields of healthcare, logistics, manufacturing and other industries that deploy field technicians. AR innovation in these areas can help surgeons perform complex procedures with remote assistance, warehouse workers fulfill orders faster, and field technicians conduct remote repairs.

"Augmented reality holds tremendous promise for companies of all sizes," said Mike Dennison, president of the Consumer Technologies Group at Flex. "Until now, AR innovators have been challenged by the high costs and cross-disciplinary expertise required to design and build robust solutions. The new Flex AR reference design solves these challenges with a customizable hardware and software platform that innovators can build upon to quickly make an impact in this exciting field."

The Flex AR platform was designed to meet the rigorous demands of enterprise and industrial users. The device is Z87 safety rated, splash proof and dust proof and designed to survive drops from two meters. The peripheral vision is open, which allows users to have a better field of view. The device can also be controlled by gesture, voice and wearables using a Bluetooth connection. In addition, the EPU is designed to power the system throughout the workday, and it can be charged by plugging into a power adaptor or by swapping out the rechargeable battery.

"Augmented reality with Head Mounted Displays offers many potential benefits for enterprises. Flex’s investment in their reference design helps the technology to scale by removing a barrier to entry for OEMs looking to bring a product to market," said Hugo Swart, Senior Director, Qualcomm Technologies Inc. "By utilizing the Snapdragon 835 VR Platform, this offers potential customers the right balance between performance, power and size for AR, and we look forward to seeing OEMs take advantage of Flex’s reference design."

"We know the challenge of designing a cutting-edge platform that can be mass produced," Soulaiman Itani, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Atheer. "Through our work with Flex, we’ve seen their capabilities, and we're pleased to help provide a UI system that supports gestures, voice, head motion and Bluetooth wearables for hands-free operation. We are looking forward to Flex enterprise customers being able to experience the out-of-the-box Augmented Reality tools in Atheer's AiR Enterprise productivity solution for augmented reality."

The Flex AR platform will ship with a 30-day trial of Atheer AiR Enterprise, so customers can immediately start writing workflow guidance for their needs. Flex will provide a full software development kit (SDK) to customers who are building on Android Nougat.

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