8 best augmented reality headsets: Google Glass and more

Best augmented reality headsets
Augment your reality with one of these high tech headsets

Google's Project Glass is probably the most well-known of the new 'smart glass' products, but there are plenty more prototypes and rival products where that came from.

They promise to take us on a journey of discovery using a slightly predictable mix of web connectivity, GPS and smartphone integration at first, but in the long-term a whole new world of sensory enhancement beckons.

It might start with a few blokes in suits wandering around with a glorified Tom Tom strapped to their peepers, but you'll be looking at the first cyborgs. SpecsSavers will never be the same again.

1. Google Glass Explorer Edition, approx £500

Google Glass

What's on your Christmas list? They're now in beta testing, but Google's much-talked about Project Glass looks destined to deliver its first product - the Explorer Edition - before 2013 is out.

Users will be able to command Glass - already the colloquial term - to take photos and videos, search the internet and find directions using Google Maps, with the headset using Bluetooth to link up to Android and (even) iOS devices.

Google is promising a modular design in the wake of the Explorer Edition, so prescription glasses-wearers will be invited, too.

If you have a really, really packed life Google Glass could be a revelation. Or will everyone ignore each other, bump into one another, and constantly crash their cars? And will Google Glasses mainly show adverts? All will be revealed on what's destined to be the real pioneering product. OK glass, we're ready!

2. Vuzix M100, £TBC


After a few attempts at personal displays and TV specs, Vuzix may have cracked it with its upcoming augmented reality M100 smart glasses. With a processor equal to any smartphone, the M100 - shown-off at CES 2013 and now with app developers - comes equipped with a Full HD camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, a compass, and both microUSB and microSD slots.

Where the M100 differs from Google's Glass is that the eyepiece itself - which has a 480x272 resolution - is not transparent, but fixed. So it's not really augmenting reality, it's adding to it; this is a smart 'second screen'. Available in mid-to-late Summer.

3. Oculus Rift, £TBC

Oculus Rift

Is the Oculs Rift the current front-runner in the emerging world of virtual reality gaming headsets? A Kickstarter legend of 2012, Oculus Rift wowed the CES 2013 crowds with its ski goggle-esque design that's innately friendly to specs-wearers.

From two internal screens come two images, each of 640x400 resolution, which together create a 1280x800 image. With built-in motion tracking to respond to the user's head movements, it's possible to physically turn and see a 3D environment appear before your eyes. It's so good, it's a rather unsettling and giddy experience at first, but soon feels natural, though the various games' frame rates are a crucial factor.

A developer kit will be released in May, with a consumer product to follow, but already it's got video-game makers Valve, Epic Games and Unity involved.

Read our Hands-on: Oculus Rift review

4. Oakley Airwave heads-up display goggle, £500

Oakley Airwave

Another impressive, though half-baked attempt to pre-empt Google Glass, Oakley's sports-centric effort at 'performance optics' is about smart stuff in both senses. Dubbed rather worryingly as 'technology that delivers the goods straight to your brain', Airwave is aimed primarily at skiers and snowboarders.

The tiny prism display is like looking at a 14-inch screen that's five feet away in the user's field on view; on it are read-outs for speed (current and maximum), altitude, the time, the battery level and even 'air time' - the length of your last jump. Clever stuff, though niche.

Based around an Android OS, Airwave also lets you change your tune (if you love the great outdoors, but hate how it sounds), and track both yourself and friends (a feature that's meant for safety on the slopes, not so you can track them for the rest of their lives).

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),