AR Smartglasses And The Evolution Of Personal Mobile Technology
This article was first published on forbes.com as part of Alexander El-Meligi's membership in the Forbes Technology Council - an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives.
Throughout history, our relationship with technology has evolved. From primitive tools to today's artificial intelligence, each innovation has shaped our journey. The Walkman revolutionized personal entertainment, and Motorola's DynaTAC 8000X ushered in the era of mobile communication in 1973. Today, the smartphone is the gateway to the digital world. The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation, which is merging into the virtual transformation. XR or smartglasses can combine physical and digital experiences and, therefore, have the potential to replace the smartphone in a more virtualized world.
VR Headsets: A Significant Milestone
Immersive technology started with VR, an idea that emerged in the 1950s and gained prominence in the 1980s. Meanwhile, technology companies such as Microsoft, Google and Meta entered the arena and made great strides.
The year 2010 marked a pivotal moment with Palmer Luckey's unveiling of the Oculus Rift. Its presentation at the 2012 E3 video game show was nothing short of revolutionary, offering an impressive 90-degree field of view. By 2018, VR technology had advanced significantly, with 4.42 million devices in circulation. By 2023, that number had risen to 21.76 million, reflecting its widespread adoption.
VR has significantly contributed to the adoption and development of smart glasses, and both technologies benefit from each other. The latest version of the Meta VR headset, the Quest 3, will also include a much better AR mode through an improved passthrough mode.
Augmented Reality: The Rising Star
The digital age has undeniably reshaped our interaction with the world, and augmented reality (AR) is a prime example of this transformation. Acting as a refined version of VR, AR elegantly fuses our tangible surroundings with the digital universe, creating captivating experiences.
Back in 2011, from Evan Spiegel's family living room, Snapchat was born under the name "Picaboo." What started as a fun, fleeting messaging app took a significant leap with the $150 million acquisition of a Ukrainian startup, Looksery. This acquisition gave birth to the famed AR feature – Lenses. These innovative filters, blending 3-D graphics with camera visuals, were an instant hit, establishing Snapchat as an AR trailblazer.
Meanwhile, Facebook wasn't one to miss out. While their early endeavors mirrored Snapchat, they soon charted their own path. The stumble with Slingshot was followed by a masterstroke: Stories on platforms like Instagram. But it was the introduction of Camera Effects, evolving into Spark AR, that truly marked their AR territory. It democratized AR, letting anyone craft their own immersive experiences. Brands quickly saw the platform's potential, leveraging it for fresh, engaging campaigns.
Niantic Labs, a Google spinoff, aimed to augment our world. While Field Trip offered AR-guided tours, Pokémon Go became iconic. By blending reality with digital Pokémon, it attracted 45 million peak players, showcasing AR's allure.
Today, AR/VR revenues reached an impressive $942 million in 2022, with forecasts predicting a surge to 1.4 billion AR device users by 2023. These figures don't just highlight a booming industry; they narrate the tale of a visionary tech that's transitioned from a concept to an everyday essential.
Merging Realities: AR Glasses And Emerging Tech
The world of AR is marked by its expansive diversity. From AR headsets that capitalize on the capabilities of smartphones to standalone wireless AR devices linked via 5G networks, we're witnessing an expanding spectrum of tools that are able to redefine our digital interactions. Here are some examples.
Workplace: Remote training with AR, virtual meetings, maintaining and managing machines through digital twins of physical machines.
Consumer Experiences: Shopping in virtual stores, virtual try-ons, personalized digital fashion and immersive gaming experiences integrated into the physical environment.
Education And Training: Virtual classrooms and augmented reality-based training that provide hands-on experiences.
Healthcare: Virtual consultations, AR-based surgeries or medical training.
Real Estate: Virtual property tours, AR-based visualizations of properties.
Entertainment: Movies or shows where the viewer can be a part of the experience, concerts in virtual arenas, etc.
The buzz surrounding Apple's Vision Pro serves as a testament to this accelerated progression. As Apple's debut in the AR headset domain, it's speculated to be more than just a novel gadget, but a harbinger of a possible shift where AR devices might one day eclipse smartphones. This is largely due to the immersive potential they encapsulate, reshaping our interactions with digital data.
However, the fusion of AR and artificial intelligence (AI) is where things get really exciting. One can imagine AR glasses that do not simply project data but understand the environment, the underlying context and even the user's behavior and intention in detail. With the analytical power of AI, AR transforms from a purely visual tool into a profound experience. Imagine a shopping trip where the device not only suggests products based on your past but also anticipates your future desires.
How To Prepare For Smart Glasses
AR, VR and Mixed Reality are poised to usher in a new era, with smart glasses potentially overshadowing smartphones. As we stand on the brink of this virtual transformation, every industry will feel its ripple effect. To navigate this promising horizon, companies could take into account the following aspects.
Strategic Visioning: Develop a clear vision and strategy for integrating AR, VR and mixed reality into your business operations and offerings.
Technical Infrastructure: Ensure the necessary hardware, software and network capabilities are in place to support augmented and virtual technologies.
Collaboration: Partner with AR and VR experts, consultants and firms.
Adapt To Digital Products: Consider how your product line might evolve. Such as the emergence of digital fashion.
Risk Mapping: Rigorously assess potential pitfalls, especially in areas like data privacy, cybersecurity and ethical considerations.
Cultural Readiness: Foster a company culture that is able to adapt and open to innovation and change.
Skill Development: Invest in training programs to upskill employees in AR and VR technologies.
We are on the cusp of a seamless integration of digital and real-world experiences, with smart glasses a likely cornerstone. They're the sparkling gateway to a future where boundaries between the digital and tangible blur, unlocking endless possibilities and enriching our collective human experience.