Xiaomi shows off smart glasses with an all-green, microLED, waveguide display

Xiaomi—the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer—would like to briefly divert your tech attention away from the iPhone 13 launch to a new pair of AR goggles called “Xiaomi Smart Glasses.” The company calls this a “concept” device, but previous Xiaomi “concept” devices have turned into real, for-sale products. There’s no release date or price point yet, but it looks like it’s a working device. Xiaomi’s feet are firmly on the ground, and there isn’t much about the product that hasn’t been done before by Google Glass or Snapchat Spectacles.

The Smart Glasses look like a slightly bulky pair of prescription eyeglasses, with a 5MP camera in one corner and the display system in the other. The display system is wild—a microLED display fires into a series of lenses and then into a waveguide lens for the right eye only. Cramming a microLED into a pair of glasses apparently wasn’t easy—Xiaomi says the chip measures 2.4 mm x 2.02 mm, with individual pixels sized at 4 μm. The big compromise is that the microLED system is actually monochrome: the glasses can only display green, so you’ll feel right at home if you ever used a computer in the 1980s.

The biggest AR glasses product on the market is Snapchat Spectacles, and those take a more advanced approach to vision, with two full-color waveguide lenses. Xiaomi is pushing the envelope with microLED, while Snapchat appears to be using tiny DLP projectors that project into the waveguides. Snapchat was so impressed with its display supplier that it decided to buy the company—called “WaveOptics”—in March for $500 million.

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