At Lenovo’s Accelerate 2019, they introduced us to a new solution they are calling ThinkReality, which is a Platform that provides all the software development tools needed to create advanced AR/VR applications. It incorporates prebuilt functions and program logic, which enables engineers to quickly build sophisticated applications that would normally take much longer. The software solution itself is agnostic meaning it can work with other vendors and provides such as the Hololens or the Oculus HMDs.
First in line with this new Solutions Platform is the ThinkReality A6 headset. It weighs in at just 380-grams which is one of the lightest devices currently in the market meaning it will be comfortable for use over long periods of time, this is achieved by separating the headgear and processing unit or Compute Box, with the latter being mounted on your belt or waist. Speaking of long use periods, Lenovo has included a detachable battery pack in the waist module which has a lifespan of 4hrs per full charge. Since the battery is removable, it means that workers can complete a work day by just swapping out the battery when depleted.
The compute box contains a Snapdragon 845 CPU which is running an Android-based operating system plus an Intel Movidius chips powering waveguide optics and each eye on the A6 offers a 40-degree diagonal field of view and 1080p resolution. For I/Os it has a Display Port, 3.5 mm Headphone jack and an embedded NFC chip. There are also fixtures for expansion, which should allow for the addition of extra hardware to extend the capability of the devices.
But the core of the ThinkReality Platform is not the hardware but the accompanying software solution that comes with it. Lenovo says they are trying to build an ecosystem where quick, easy and scalable solutions can be built on their platform and used with a variety of vendors and other hardware. This way enterprise users are not locked down to use only Lenovo products but have the flexibility to use and create apps with the ThinkReality Software that can then be used with third-party vendors or hardware provides that best work with their given environment or scenario.
We do not know to what extent this will hold true or what modifications enterprise users would have to make to get things working seamlessly but the fact that Lenovo is taking the open platform format right from the start makes this something that is worth watching.
In comparison to the Hololens 2 which runs a Snapdragon 850 processor and 2K resolution per eye, the A6 falls a bit short but things start looking up when you take into account the weight and battery life of the device which allows longer use, you start to see where Lenovo is going with this product.
So far it seems that like Microsoft, Lenovo is targeting the enterprise workspace as it says that this new solution is meant to assist workers in assembly, repair and maintenance tasks. Good news for companies needing to increase productivity and safety standards but not so much for gamers and the entertainment industry.
Michael Leone, Director of Commercial AR/VR at Lenovo, says that this device is built for use cases like a remote expert or remote assist, maintenance or anything that targets improving efficiency and catching errors in a corporate enterprise environment, industrial environment or AEC markets. He believes that it will allow enterprise to have conversations and communications with clients in a whole new way, which in turn will help solve problems and create fixes much faster and safer than what we have now.
We know the Hololens 2 goes for a fat $3,500 price tag but details on the price of the ThinkReality A6 are currently being kept hush hush and also no work on when the device will be available for purchase, we only know that it will be available later this year and if you have a Lenovo early enterprise account then you should be able to contact Lenovo for setup on the ThinkReality Platform.
If you are wondering why vendors like Lenovo are focusing on the Enterprise space instead of the Consumer market like they have done in the past, the answer is simple. Mixed reality, AR or even VR gears have wider applications and immediate benefits for the workspace, plus the volume sales for their devices will be larger since enterprise environment can afford the current price tags as against the average consumers, but it’s not all just about profits.
Enterprise users are willing to spend resources to get varying solutions just right for their use case, this, in turn, lets vendors like Lenovo fine-tune their product and deliver more focused devices. This means that the enterprise space is a perfect testing ground for their devices since they get large usage data and working hand-in-hand with enterprise users allows a deeper level of interactions that facilitates quick and easy assessment, update and modification to their solutions.
Lenovo has made it clear that this is a first of many products that they will be releasing in the “ThinkReality” product line. They seem to want to focus on the Solution itself and not the individual products, this is a smart move as many companies are moving away from just providing hardware and creating a sustainable solution that will provide them a reoccurring revenue stream. We do not, however, know if the solution will be a subscription service or what billing model Lenovo will adopt.
So all the details we have so far doesn’t tell us much concerning the A6 headset, we are still missing other information such as performance in real-world use, actual battery performance on heavy load and most importantly the developers kit for building apps on the new Software platform. However, once the device is released later this year we will be able to get benchmark scores and real-world stats on it.