Chinese tech giant Xiaomi debuts prototype augmented reality glasses joining Microsoft and Google

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Xiaomi took the wraps off its Xiaomi AR Glass Discovery Edition at Mobile World Congress 2023. The concept glasses work on augmented reality technology. Xiaomi said the glasses are concept technology at this point.
Arjun Kharpal | CNBC

BARCELONA, Spain — Xiaomi on Monday took the wraps off a pair of prototype augmented reality glasses as the Chinese technology giant looks to sell more products beyond smartphones.

The device is called the Xiaomi Wireless AR Glass Discovery Edition. Augmented reality refers to digital media that can be superimposed over the real world that a person sees in front of them.

Xiaomi said the glasses are just a concept technology and won’t be on sale yet. However, the announcement at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the biggest mobile industry trade show in the world, highlights its ambition to enter the space.

If Xiaomi officially launches the product, it will join the likes of Microsoft’s HoloLens and the Google Glass Enterprise as AR products on the market.

Technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Apple are interested in augmented or mixed reality as a way to bring new experiences to consumers. The technology is often described as being a key part of whatever the idea of a “metaverse” turns out to be.

“I think AR is a profound technology that will affect everything,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said last year.

Apple hasn’t officially acknowledged or launched any kind of virtual or augmented reality headset.

Bloomberg reported this year that Apple will unveil its mixed reality headset this spring, with consumer deliveries beginning in fall 2023.

“It’s a widespread view in the technology industry that AR smart glasses could be the next major form of mobile computing after the smartphone,” Leo Gebbie, analyst at CCS Insight, told CNBC via email.

Gesture control

Xiaomi said that its AR glasses are lightweight and connect to a smartphone wirelessly. Xiaomi also said the device offers “retina-level display” so users are able to see virtual objects as clearly as they would a physical object.

The Beijing, China-headquartered firm also said that wearers of the headset can use gesture control to carry out tasks. Users would raise their hands in front of the glasses while they are wearing them and then move their hand and fingers in specific ways to execute a function. For example, Xiaomi said that “the thumb sliding on the index finger is used to enter and exit applications.”

The idea is that this could remove the need for you to touch your smartphone.

“This kind of interaction showcases one of the directions that Xiaomi believes human-computer interaction will take in the future,” the company said.

The company said that the headset will work with its Xiaomi 13 and 13 Pro, its flagship smartphones launched globally on Sunday.

Xiaomi, one of the biggest smartphone players in the world, is looking to unlock revenue from other devices. Over the past few years, the company has launched devices across the board from TVs to electric scooters.

“Xiaomi’s new AR glasses feel more like a stake in the ground than a meaningful product launch. Chinese rivals including Oppo and TCL have also shown off AR devices and it’s clear no one wants to get left behind,” Gebbie said.