The world of AR, mixed reality, and VR headsets is growing massively right now. From classic big hitters like the Oculus Quest, to new ventures like Apple's Reality Pro headset, these devices are everywhere.
My experience with AR and VR has been relatively limited. I got the chance to see the Xiaomi Wireless AR Glass Discovery Edition in use, and have had some brief exposure to a handful of other devices.
But recently, I had the chance to test the Rokid Max AR for an extended period of time. The Max AR features a lightweight construction, weighing just 75g. That makes it perfect for extended sessions, without needing to build up some serious neck muscles.
The screen size is the equivalent of a 215-inch panel, with a 120Hz refresh rate to ensure everything looks smooth. It uses a micro-LED design, too, so colours are vivid and there's good contrast in the picture.
There's no battery either. Instead, the Rokid Max AR draws power from your phone to run. That means there's nothing else to charge, and no charging cables to worry about.
I'm a massive fan of the myopia adjustment. As someone who wears glasses, one thing I've always feared with the new generation of glasses-style AR devices is that they'll be all but unusable to me. These were perfect, though, with a decent field of adjustment that allowed me to view without straining.
In use, the Max AR was a mixed bag. The prototype unit I tried wouldn't work with an iPhone – something which should be rectified on production models – so I dug out an old Android phone to pair it up with.
Setting it up was absolutely seamless. Just download the app, plug in and go. With the glasses on, you see a screen with your phone apps, and the connected handset becomes a trackpad for moving the cursor.
To kick off, I loaded up YouTube and watched a couple of videos. At first, the sound comes from the speakers on the phone – not ideal for stealthily doing your own thing while your housemate watches re-runs of Neighbours. A quick settings change rectified it, though those settings don't save between sessions, so make sure to go back when you load up again.
The sound itself is okay. There's brilliant separation which gives a great surround sound effect and really immerses you in the content. For me, though, it was just a touch too quiet. I was running it on full volume the whole time, and it just wasn't quite enough. Using this in any environment other than a quiet room is going to be tough.
Visually, the experience was strong, overall. Pictures are detailed and smooth, and the immersive nature of AR makes content consumption a real dream. I could very easily get lost for hours just watching videos – okay, actually I already do that, but it's much more enjoyable here.
I did also have a go at gaming. For this, I went to my trusty old favourite, Call of Duty Mobile. Visuals were brilliant and really immersive, but the control layout just wasn't going to work. Because the Max AR uses a cursor style movement, you could never move fast enough to hit all of the right buttons at the right time.
I'd love to see some kind of controller mapping included in future. You'd pretty quickly get used to the layout and could enjoy a truly immersive gaming experience to make use of that 120Hz refresh rate.
All in all, though, this device has totally changed my view on AR. Previously, I'd been sceptical. Don't get me wrong, I love that the boundaries of technology are being pushed, but like many, I just couldn't see a need for it.
Now, I'm hooked. Even using it solely for watching TV and videos, I think it's brilliant. The relatively unassuming design means you wouldn't feel too out of place using them in public, either.
Previously, I've used a tablet for this kind of thing. There, the larger screen helps to make the content easier to watch. But honestly, this might have just made that redundant.
At $439, the Rokid Max AR isn't necessarily cheap. But it is comparable to decent tablets. And for the right kind of user – someone who primarily wants to watch content and surf the web – I think the Max AR might just be a better solution.