Hands on with the ODG R-8: AR/VR smartglasses that use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835

ODG's glasses are surprisingly comfortable, though we never got to actually test AR or VR.

Microsoft’s HoloLens led me to believe that augmented-reality vision hardware needs to be big and bulky. But ODG’s new Android-powered R-8 smartglasses just made me think again.

Osterhout Design Group’s R-8 glasses will cost less than $1,000, and combine both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), offering 720p resolution independently to either eye for true stereoscopic vision. There’s also an R-9 version that will offer 1080p resolution for $1,799. The two glasses are the first design wins for the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, which Qualcomm revealed Tuesday at CES 2017.

ODG R-8 smart glasses IDG / Mark Hachman

Android-styled control buttons are built into the arm of the ODG glasses.

PC companies are banking on a virtual reality future in which headsets like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are tethered to a powerful desktop GPU. But Qualcomm hopes that its Snapdragon 835 System-on-Chip—which will inevitably power a plethora of smartphones—will also find homes in automotive and smartglasses.

Right now, the flagship AR platform is the Microsoft HoloLens, a 20-ounce headset that dominates one’s head—you never forget you’re wearing heavy hardware. The R-8, by contrast, weighs just 4.5 ounces. It’s not as light as a pair of actual glasses, but it’s still far lighter and more comfortable than HoloLens and various VR headsets.

ODG R-8 smart glasses IDG / Mark Hachman

Two knobs, one on either arm, control volume and on-screen menus.

Now for some major caveats: I didn’t get to see either AR or VR content during my demo. Nor has the company disclosed the size or longevity of the battery. ODG’s message is that AR/VR glasses don’t need to be bulky, and what I saw Tuesday confirms that—but we still don’t know if the AR and VR experiences are any good.

Both the R-8 and R-9 run Android Nougat, which is powerfully reflected in the button configuration on the underside of the glasses: You’ll find Menu, Back, and Power. The Back button is actually a rocker switch—rock the switch one way to go back, and the other to trigger your choice. There are also dials to select options and control volume. 

ODG is promising to show off an augmented-reality display demo, based on the Alien movies, later this week. But on Tuesday, the sum total of “testing” the ODG glasses involved watching movie trailers projected inside the lenses.

The R-8 uses a virtual display with a greater than 40-degree field of view, while the R-9 extends that to 50 degrees. Even in a fairly well-lit conference room, the glasses projected the movies clearly and brightly, and it appeared that all (or almost all) of the videos’ details were preserved. I think I’d be willing to watch a movie on an airplane using the ODG glasses, if that’s any measure of the experience.

ODG R-8 smart glasses IDG / Mark Hachman

The front of ODG’s smart glasses.

Both models have front-facing cameras, with resolutions as high as 13 megapixels, according to a report by VentureBeat. Such high resolutions are necessary for augmented reality, where virtual objects are overlaid onto the real world.

Is it likely that consumers will shell out more than $1,000 for an AR/VR solution? Maybe not, especially with established VR products like the HTC Vive already falling below $800. Still, as AR/VR products become more like normal eyewear, it’s likely that an increasing number of people will be encouraged to try them out, as well as possibly adopt them for everyday use. 

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags CES 2017

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?