Lenovo is continuing its expansion into new, unexpected categories outside of its PC business and today the company announced it’s launching a new AR-and-VR system targeted at businesses. It’s called ThinkReality, and from the looks and description of the device and platform, it looks like a competitor for Microsoft’s HoloLens.
Lenovo’s new ThinkReality A6 augmented reality headset is gunning for Microsoft’s AT mindshare in the business space by competing directly with its HoloLens headset and software platform. ThinkReality combines an Android-based headset with 1080p (per eye) visuals with an ecosystem that integrates with existing enterprise systems, is compatible with existing augmented reality content, and offers deep user and device management software.
Lenovo introduced its first “mixed reality” headsets since 2017, but like most devices designed to use Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform, the Lenovo Explorer was really more of a virtual reality headset that blocked out the real world and replaced it with a virtual one.
The company’s new ThinkReality A6, meanwhile, is a true augmented reality system. It’s designed for the enterprise market and could be used for training purposes, for fieldworkers who may need to consult documents while working on repairs, or for other situations where a head-mounted display could be more convenient than a phone, tablet, or laptop.
What makes the ThinkReality more than just a HoloLens wannabe is the software platform that Lenovo is launching alongside. A company spokesperson told Engadget that “the intention behind the software is to provide enterprises with the ability to create their own AR apps for situations like training or streamlining workflows in environments.” But it also wanted to leave the choice of OS up to businesses, rather than tie them to, say, Lenovo’s own proprietary system or Microsoft’s platform.
With the ThinkReality platform, users can “pin, interact and collaborate with 3D digital information in the real world,” according to the company. The platform will be open and “cloud agnostic,” meaning it will work with things like Amazon Web Services as well as Microsoft Azure. It’ll also be device-agnostic; you won’t have to buy Lenovo’s own headset to use the software, you can hook up your own Oculus Rift if you wish.
In other words, the ThinkReality A6 is Lenovo’s answer to Microsoft’s HoloLens platform.
Although virtual reality and the hardware behind it have achieved greater growth than AR over the past few years, many of those who operate at the heart of it see augmented reality as having similar, or even grander potential. However, unlike such headsets as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, AR is finding its greatest acceptance in the workplace, and Lenovo’s new ThinkReality A6 headset looks to expand that audience and even crib a few customers from Microsoft in the process.
The ThinkReality A6 headset has dual-1080p displays in a 16:9 aspect ratio. That’s significantly higher than the first-generation Microsoft Hololens headset, which has a maximum resolution per eye of 1,268 x 720, but falls behind the Hololens 2’s converted resolution of 1,440p per eye. The field of view of Lenovo’s headset falls somewhere in the middle of the two Hololens generations with an above 40-degrees diagonal FOV. Whereas, the Hololens headsets are said to be 30 degrees horizontally, and “more than double” that for the second-generation AR headset.
The A6 is lightweight at just 380g, and its visuals are powered by an onboard Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SOC. The 6,800mAh battery gives it up to four hours of continuous use at a time, and it offers a number of input options, including head and gaze tracking, voice commands, gesture controls, and a three-degrees-of-freedom hand controller.
There’s also a barcode reader and front-facing, fisheye cameras for pass-through video.
It’s being targeted specifically at enterprise users, with Lenovo citing industrial training and manufacturing as particular areas where it can be of use. It’s said to offer real advantages when it comes to increasing the efficiency of certain tasks and even improving safety. It’s also said to be an excellent tool for architects and artists who want to see a 3D rendering of their potential creations before they have actually been built.
Perhaps its greatest strength though is that even though Lenovo’s headset runs on Android, it is said to be entirely hardware, cloud, and environment agnostic. That should mean that a broad swathe of existing AR software will run on this headset without difficulty.
Lenovo is yet to announce the release date and pricing information, but considering how fleshed out the announcement and marketing materials are, consumers can expect to have to wait too long for the launch.