Barry Eitel

Although Google’s neat-looking AR glasses have been receiving a fair amount of press lately, Canon will beat the tech giant to market with their “Mixed Reality” headset, due to be released later this summer.

Google Glass won’t be available to those wanting to augment reality until at least 2014, the company recently reported at their I/O developer’s conference in San Francisco.

Those tired of this reality will need deep pockets to get a Canon headset in their home, however. At a Virtual Reality exposition in Tokyo, Canon focused on industrial and business applications. This most likely means that the headset will carry a very hefty price tag.

Canon’s clunky headset also doesn’t score any style points over Google Glass, but aesthetics probably aren’t too high a priority of the headset’s industrial customers.

The headset uses cameras positioned over the user’s eyes to capture images and video of the real world. This information, along with GPS data, is sent to a computer and analyzed. The computer also adds a 3D model and sends everything back to monitors in the headset. This rolled-together image is what the user sees in front of him or her. Using their hands, a user can manipulate virtual objects.

This process happens lightning fast and the headset can create virtual items in real time. The dual cameras and the curved prism make Canon’s product (which has been in development for a long time) a leader in the AR market.

The industrial and design applications are clear. A headset-clad engineer could whip up virtual prototypes with his bare hands. The headset could also provide detailed, image-based training. Trainees could watch how a machine is supposed work in an animation without even touching metal. This could prove to be especially useful with more dangerous occupations, like fiddling around in a nuclear power plant.

AR has been around for several years and the public is just getting into it (especially with the Google Glass project). Currently, AR can come off as gimmicky and critics have charged the technology lacks “stickiness.” Canon is proving AR’s real world potential and the success of their Mixed Reality Headset will be important to the whole field.

It may be several years before we’re all donning special glasses to find out how to load paper into a stubborn printer. What’s becoming clear is that Mixed Reality will be a large part of tech’s future.