Shadow Creator, a Shanghai-based AR/VR headset manufacturer, has partnered with British AR startup PhotonLens to create a new consumer-focused AR headset for gaming and fitness.

Called ‘Honghu’ in China and branded as ‘Photons’ for the international market, the device sports a very Nintendo Switch-inspired compute unit housing a Snapdragon XR2 processor, Qualcomm’s latest AR/VR chipset which is quickly becoming the standard for standalone devices such as Oculus Quest 2.

Photons are said to focus on active gaming and fitness, and will be available for pre-order worldwide within the next 2-3 months via Kickstarter campaign.

Image courtesy PhotonLens

Because the rendering hardware isn’t housed with in the glasses themselves, but rather tethered to a Switch-style compute unit with display, Honghu/Photons are said to weigh only 85 grams, or similar to Nreal’s Light AR headset which made a splash back at CES 2020.

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The company says in a recent blogpost that the glasses include a 50-degree field of view (FOV), three camera sensors, SLAM headset tracking, and displays boasting “2.07 million pixels per eye.” Audio is provided by two built-in speakers from Harman Kardon.

The compute unit, which houses the Snapdragon XR2, is slated to come with 8GB of RAM, 128GB of memory, Bluetooth 5 connectivity, USB type-C port, a 3,400 mAh battery, and a 1,080 × 1,200 display.

Image courtesy Shadow Creator

“With the powerful performance of the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform, our latest Honghu MR glasses have achieved a significant performance improvement, which can fully meet the diverse needs of consumers, operators, and industry customers,” Shadow Creator CEO Victor Sun says.

Image courtesy PhotonLens

Photons’ two controllers, which clip neatly into the compute unit, offer 6DOF tracking through what the company calls an “innovative hidden tracking light ring” which protrudes from the top of the controllers.

Photons will made available for pre-order via a Kickstarter campaign launching soon—in December of 2020 or January of 2021, the company says.

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  • kontis

    50 deg FOV makes ortho stereo impractical. The threshold where consumers start accepting XR as a value (and only a portion of them) is around 80 deg and even that is considering barely usable.

    We know that thanks to 2 decades of struggles in the pre-Dk1 era. It looks like some people didn’t learn.

    • 90 degrees of FREEDOM, that’s the whole point, I totally agree kontis

      • kakek

        huuu … I think you’re confusing 6 degree of freedom, wich define complete positional tracking, and 90 degree of field of vision.

    • Jan Ciger

      You are comparing apples to oranges.

      50 degrees would be poor for VR where you have no peripheral vision otherwise. Not for optical see-through glasses where you see “around” the displays.

      50 degrees is comparable with both Hololenses and Magic Leap – and nobody complained about stereo with those. We had working stereo even with glasses like the Vuzix VR920, which has only 30 degrees FOV.

      Humans have only limited overlap between the eyes where they have a truly stereoscopic vision anyway.

      The limited FOV e.g. on Hololens is more a problem for having only a limited space before the displayed AR overlay disappears from view when you turn your head – which can be annoying/disturbing.

      For me a much bigger issue would be the toy-like tiny controllers with the slide-out tracking rings that will be terrible to use for anyone hands larger than a child has, will be getting lost constantly and will soon be unusable because the thin plasticky ring will be broken.

      • R3ST4RT

        I agree with the size and plastic ring durability, but I must admit that my two kids still haven’t lost our four switch controllers, and they lose everything. Having them clip to the sides of the compute unit really helps with long term retention. However, as a person with large hands, I can agree that the size factor is the biggest drawback.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Oh yes the Vuzix VR920, still have those VR glasse laying around.. Never really used them.

      • Kevin White

        “…the left/right image disparity/parallax is not the only cue humans use for stereo vision/depth perception…”

        Very true. The Wiki entry on this is decent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depth_perception

      • I’ve personally used a Hololens, and I was not impressed. 50 degrees is not convincing. Just because people accept that something sucks and don’t mention it, does not mean it does not suck.

    • leseki9

      I think you are confusion immersion with steroscopy. Stereoscopy works fine even with tiny FOV Virtual Boy (personal exprience).

    • dk

      and those 2 decades pre-dk1 headsets were not small glasses nor ar ….it was a huge helmet poor quality and blackout the rest of your vision
      the important part here is this and nreal and other similar somewhat affordable headsets have excellent displays compared even to the most expensive ar headsets available https://kguttag.com/2019/01/29/ces-2019-nreal/

  • leseki9

    The 4:3 screen bugs me. It also bugs me how similar they made it to Nintendo Switch.

    • MosBen

      Eh, I like that they copied the Switch. It’s a super popular piece of hardware, and a form factor that lots of people are comfortable with. It’s also a good design for storing the compute unit and controllers while you’re not using the device, or giving the option to play in “Switch mode” with the controllers docked and the game mostly occurring on the screen, but leaping off of the screen as well.

  • MosBen

    This is certainly interesting, and it’s a direction that I’d like to see more products go in. Making the headset that light is going to make it wildly more comfortable to wear for an extended period of time. I also dream of a scenario where you can upgrade the compute unit and headset independently from one and other, keeping the cost of upgrading down and giving people choices about which features are most important to them. I’m also intrigued by the idea of playing games on the compute unit while holding it in Switch mode, but while using the headset to allow games to leap off the screen. There are some interesting possibilities there.

    As with most startups like this, I don’t really expect this to set the world on fire. But hopefully it can at least prove some concepts well enough that they get bought or their ideas start filtering into products from other companies.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    Personally I don’t see the point of these AR glasses.. But then again, I’m not a real fan of AR, at least not until they are as small as regular glasses (which isn’t even that far away)..

  • I actually really like this concept! all the best to the developers and hardware engineers out there to see if we can crack the FoV Egg/Problem wide open once and for all!

  • This is a very interesting concept, also considering the promo video where they move the controllers around to create virtual screens in the world. But I still think that in the end such a glass should be able to connect to the phone

  • Lulu Vi Britannia

    Oh, I thought it was Shadow Creator as in “The creators of Shadow, the cloud computer system”, lol.

    It’s not very interesting compared to the current state of the art. 50 FOV, again? The two 6DoF controllers can be interesting, but it’s such a small step compared to Magic Leap… especially since we’ve got that in VR for a while now (and VR tech is a huge part of AR tech).

    In the end, the true AR glasses will be VR headsets with transparent screens (yes, that already exists, we just need to be able to miniaturize them and boom, VR headsets can literally become AR glasses).

  • HADRIAN

    Good AR glasses will not need controllers