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Home / Tips and Tricks / Convenient with Lenovo's ThinkReality A6, a disappointing step back from the cutting edge of augmented reality «Next Reality

Convenient with Lenovo's ThinkReality A6, a disappointing step back from the cutting edge of augmented reality «Next Reality



There are certain brands in the technology field that you depend on. Whether it's a long track record of decades or innovations that blow you away, some technology addresses have a rare kind of brand value for users who are hard to earn.

That's why I'm not pleased to say that Lenovo's new augmented reality headset, ThinkReality A6, delivers a very bad experience in almost every aspect, despite the company's history of high-performance technology offerings.

During the recent AWE conference, I had the opportunity to test the device first-hand, and it's no understatement to say that I was actually shocked at how bad it was. Historically, I was a fan of Lenovo products. I was especially pleased with the company's Mirage AR headset, which offers a low-cost mobile AR experience that gives Star Wars fans a taste of Jedi training.

The release of the large franchise partnership has shown that the company has understood AR and really how to approach it from a mainstream perspective and invest in space as the future of computing. That may be true, but the ThinkReality A6 headset is not a good look into the future.

Software Experience

To demonstrate the device's capabilities, Lenovo set up a demo that allowed the wearer to interact with a real-world circuit board paired with an AR overlay on the same board. In general, the demonstration was on rails, so my ability to manipulate and experiment with the experience was limited.

Therefore, I did not go into detail about the interaction because it was mainly about showing the visual appearance through the user interface

Hardware, Comfort, and Fit

When I saw the ThinkReality A6 for the first time, it looked like a hybrid of the HoloLens 1 and the Meta 2 headset in terms of design. Despite its lack of performance, it is at first glance an attractive device. The black and red device is not bulky, its waveguides weigh under a modern looking clear visor, and the headband "looks" as if much attention has been paid to portability.

And maybe the team did this ] Spend a lot of time with the design and the look, but the feeling was awful. Even after making sure to customize the headset to my own needs, I could not wait to turn off the ill-fitting device.

Image by Adario Strange / Next Reality

The company claims that the headset weighs less than 380 grams. That may be true, but it somehow felt harder. By comparison, the Meta 2 headset weighs 420 grams (and feels pretty light on the head), and the HoloLens 1 weighs 579 grams (and I feel every gram of device is hard to carry for a long time). The weighty feel of the ThinkReality A6 is puzzling as the VR-style back-end headband seems to provide more support and balance. This was not the case for me.

Lenovo also added a noise canceling microphone and embedded surround sound speakers. During my demo, I got over-the-ear headphones, which was smart because the demo area was loud. Nonetheless, the audio feedback did not do much to improve the overall experience.

Image by Adario Strange / Next Reality

It should also be noted that the device does have a Wi -Fi connection, but is not compatible with 4G or 5G. This is not a major shortcoming compared to other current AR devices, but in 2019 it seems shortsighted to offer a brand new AR headset that is not 5G-friendly.

In addition to the headset, the system comes with a Bluetooth-connected 3DoF controller (three degrees of freedom) included, with which I have shown on virtual menus, this selected and clicked on it. Both the headset and the controller felt "okay" in terms of build quality. After testing all sorts of mobile devices for many years, I did not feel that this system worked well over a long period of time in rigorous, repeated storage or field use in business situations.

Field of View, Optics, & Tracking

According to Lenovo, the ThinkReality A6 headset has a 40-degree (FoV) image field (aspect ratio 16: 9 aspect ratio) and provides 1080p per eye resolution via Lumus waveguides. Well, despite these technical specifications, the software demonstration did not do a great job of displaying high-resolution graphics because I found the images soft and spooky. There is nothing wrong with the translucency in AR, but even that felt like a step back in time.

Image by Adario Strange / Next Reality

As for FoV, I compare the experience with my first reaction years ago the HoloLens 1 and its field of view of 34 degrees diagonal. Regarding this visual frame restriction, the devices feel similar. But HoloLens 1 has managed to overcome its FoV limits by providing better visual quality and impressive tracking. For ThinkReality A6, I can not say the same thing, so the FoV not only feels claustrophobic, but coupled with the poor picture quality, it's also harder to use than it's worth.

In addition to the above controller, the ThinkReality A6 headset features 3DoF Inside Out tracking, head and eye tracking, and voice commands and gesture control. Unfortunately, I only had the option of using the hardware controller to manipulate the interfaces, so the non-controller-based interface controls are not available until I can retest the device.

] The device also provides SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) using a depth sensor, a 13 megapixel camera, an inertial measurement unit (IMU), two fisheye cameras, and a battery life of around four hours. Internally, the device runs on Android Oreo, using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and an Intel Movidius VPU (image processing unit).

Conclusion

You will find that I did not mention the ] HoloLens 2 in my comparisons. That's because the ThinkReality A6 is not in the same class as the HoloLens 2 – the company's efforts are still ahead of its time to compare with the luster and performance of Microsoft's latest AR system. I'm not sure why Lenovo launched the product at this stage of development. Assuming that the company's researchers have tried the alternative AR devices available on the market, it seems more reasonable to wait until they are a little more competitive in terms of performance.

Image by Adario Strange / Next Reality

Of course I'm always ready to arouse hope For Lenovo, I just experienced a confluence of bad circumstances that led to a demonstration that does not do justice to the actual capabilities of the device. That is always possible (in fact I would like that to be the case).

The area that may benefit the ThinkReality device in the future is the fact that the company is following the increasingly popular tethered hip-computer model. This dynamic removes most of the computing work from the headset and could allow for a better version of the Lenovo device in the future.

The ThinkReality A6, however, is currently behaving like a product better suited to the AR area a few years ago. Today, conditions are much more competitive and a corporate offer from a name as well-known as Lenovo needs to deliver more. Lenovo has not yet announced the price or release date of the device, but it is better if the company attempts to persuade enterprise users to adopt the device through other current and soon to be available portable AR devices.

Do not miss: HoloLens 2 Touching, The Newest Augmented Reality Experience Ever

Cover Picture by Adario Strange / Next Reality

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