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Meet the AR Headset You'd Want to Wear in Public

Functional though they may be, augmented reality headsets really don't make much of a fashion statement, unless that statement is "Hey, look at the weirdo with the computer on his face."

Optinvent thinks the way to consumers' faces is not with the same design that works in more industrial settings. At Augmented World Expo (AWE) in Santa Clara, Calif., this week, the AR headset maker showed off a prototype of its ORA-X device, which looks more like a pair of headphones than it does something a cyborg would wear.

MORE: Augmented Reality Glasses: What You Can Buy Now

Optinvent knows a little bit about AR headsets. After a successful crowd-funding campaign last year, the company brought its ORA-1 glasses to market, targeting the headset at professional settings where users prize functionality over fashion. Making a headset for consumers, though, means putting AR features into something a person wouldn't feel self-conscious about wearing in public, Optinvent CEO Kayvan Mirza said.

"The intent here is the same idea as the ORA-1, but in a form factor that's better for the consumer," Mirza told me on the AWE show floor. "It's disguised in something the consumer would actually wear."

Indeed, the ORA-X looks more like something that would be confused for Beats By Dre rather than Google Glass. The ORA-X features a pair of headphones with a viewfinder that can swivel down over your eye whenever you need an augmented look at things. When you've seen what you need, just push the viewfinder back up to the top of your headset.

It'll be some time before ORA-X is ready for consumers. The prototype at AWE was locked away safely in a glass display case, and a crowd-funding campaign for the consumer-friendly headset won't launch until later this year. It's worth keeping an eye on ORA-X's progress, though, if only to see whether Optinvent has figured out how to make the social acceptability of VR headsets match the functionality.

Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.