How do augmented reality (AR) glasses work?

A bearded man wearing Microsoft Hololens AR smart glassess

Augmented and virtual reality are the two new hot pieces of technology on the block.

According to a Gartner study, by the year 2025, 50% of all field service tasks will be accomplished with the help of some form of AR remote assistance software .

In our previous article, we discussed what AR is and how it works.

Today, we’re picking up where we last left off and taking a closer look at the hardware behind the technology – AR glasses.

We’ll be discussing what AR glasses are, how they work, and the technologies behind them that turned this sci-fi daydream into a reality.

What are AR glasses?

Like all other AR-compatible devices, augmented reality glasses fuse the digital with the real world.

However, they are unique because they can project a digital overlay directly into a person’s field of vision without them needing to do anything.

In the past, AR glasses used to be clunky and prohibitively expensive. Thanks to technological progress and the COVID pandemic, they’re becoming more versatile and affordable.

A definition of AR glasses

Although they’re still relatively rare in commercial use, AR glasses have recently become a mainstay in manufacture, maintenance, and repair as a consequence of the Industry 4.0 movement.

As mentioned above, their primary industrial use is in combination with AR remote assistance services.

What is the difference between AR and VR glasses?

To many, augmented and virtual reality glasses may seem similar. But don’t let the two-letter acronyms and the fact they’re both glasses fool you. They’re quite different from one another.

VR glasses completely isolate the user from the outside world in order to “transport” them into a new digitally-created environment.

Meanwhile, AR glasses overlay digital information over the user’s field of view (FOV) to aid their real-world interactions.

Ruggedized devices such as RealWear are an alternative to AR glasses. Instead of augmented reality, they use assisted reality, where information isn’t overlaid on top of the real world. Instead, the user sees a screen within their immediate field of vision. RealWear and similar devices are helpful in fields such as manufacturing, field service, or construction, where workers work in hazardous environments, as the device is dust-resistant and fall-proof. Resco’s app for RealWear is offline enabled, can be adapted to the client’s needs, and directly integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Resco Cloud.

How do AR glasses work?

An infographic of how AR glasses work

We’ll discuss the capabilities of AR glasses more in-depth later in the article. But first, we need to establish how they work in the most basic forms.

The process behind AR glasses can be divided into 4 steps:

1) Initial Image Capture:

The AR glasses capture the user’s field of view of their environment via a front-facing camera.

2) Scanning & Anchoring:

The AR glasses scan and process the captured image. Based on the app’s use case, they select what type of data will be used and “anchor” it in an appropriate place within the user’s FOV. There are 3 approaches to anchoring:

a) Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM):

SLAM is the most sophisticated of approaches to anchoring. It uses data received from the various hardware sensors with complex algorithms to map environments and localize data simultaneously.

The SLAM is the leading technology behind autonomous cars, robots, and drones. It also allows for the use of gestures as an interactive medium with the AR software.

However, for all its advantages, it has drawbacks too. SLAM requires significant processing power to work efficiently, meaning it is very hardware-demanding.

SLAM-based AR apps also need a pre-defined map of the environment to place virtual 3D models within it correctly.

b) Marker-based:

Marker-based AR technology is currently the most widespread way of anchoring. It uses the front-facing camera and image recognition to locate pre-defined markers within the environment and pull up the associated virtual data.

Possible markers include QR codes, physical objects, and printed images. QR codes are most often used, as they’re the easiest to make out.

The physical distance of the marker is also taken into consideration when displaying data. Meaning that when the distance of the marker changes, so does the visual representation of whatever information is being shown.

c) Location-based:

Location-based AR technology relies on GPS data and hardware sensors, like the built-in compass, accelerometer, and gyroscope. These are further combined with data-based triggers like geolocation through the front-facing camera.

Apps using location-based anchoring can be used to bring up information regarding your immediate environment, like reviews of various establishments, navigation, and more.

3) Requesting Data:

The app requests the appropriate data when the anchor point is identified. This can be from the Internet or an internal knowledge library.

4) Displaying Information:

Once the information has been obtained, it is displayed in a suitable location within the user’s FOV.

What are the benefits of AR glasses?

The benefits of AR glasses infographic

So far, we’ve talked about how AR glasses work but haven’t mentioned what they’re used for. And the truth is that AR glasses have a wide variety of use cases, both in the commercial and industrial sphere. Of course, we’ll focus on the latter of the two here.

AR glasses are used in many industries, including communication services, utilities, consumer electronics, and maintenance and repair field services. Primarily, they are used in remote assistance software to aid either customers or employees in setting up and troubleshooting products or devices.

  • Cost-effective: Although AR technology is not cheap by traditional consumer standards, its deployment is actually far more cost-effective than employing an entire fleet of field service technicians.
  • Future-proof: Current AR solutions enabled by Industry 4.0 are on the cutting edge of technology. By incorporating them into your processes now, you can get a head-start on your competitors and benefit from the associated advantages – present and future.
  • Higher Productivity: AR gives technicians access to all the information they need whenever and wherever they may be. This allows employees to complete tasks faster and with fewer issues.
  • Improved Employee Training: With AR remote assistance, you don’t have to worry about deploying unprepared employees. Thanks to their software, they’ll always have a lifeline to a senior employee who can help them through their task.
  • Helps Prevent Loss of Vital Information: An unfortunate reality of maintenance and repair is tribal knowledge.Most of the best practices available to you are contained in the heads of your senior employees. And if they leave, that information leaves with them.But by meeting with them and creating a knowledge library out of their experience, you can pass this information on to new employees, even if they’re out in the field.

How do you choose AR glasses?

So, you’ve decided to incorporate AR into your business operations. Great! But now you have to find and choose the solution that will work for you. Well, how do you choose the best AR smart glasses ?

There are three criteria you should look for in your AR glasses:

1.) Comfort & Fit:

Whatever benefits the product offers, your employees won’t want to use it if it’s uncomfortable or causes trouble for the user.

That’s why it’s so important to consider ergonomy and wear comfort when picking out a pair of AR glasses for your business.

Choose well, and your employees will jump on board with the new technology. But choose poorly, and your investment may go down the train because nobody will use it.

2.) User-friendly:

Another aspect of onboarding AR glasses is how easy it’ll be for your employees to get used to them.

A part of your workforce may be working in hazardous conditions, so you should look for a solution that offers all of the AR benefits without impeding the workers in any way.

That goes both for actively interacting with the glasses and just passively looking through them.

3.) Functionality:

Now, the features you will need are highly based on what you want to use the software for.

However, there are several features you should look for that can benefit any business.

These include clear AR annotations, file transfer, media display, CRM integration, knowledge library for instructions and best practices, robust security protocols, and analytics/reporting tools.


As we’ve hopefully shown in this article, AR glasses are a wonderful piece of tech that can streamline and improve your business operations in many ways.

However, as with all good things, you need to put in a little work before you can enjoy all of the benefits.