The past few years brought many new entrants into the smart glasses market, including established companies like Microsoft and newer organizations like Rokid. One company conspicuously absent from that list is Apple.
Together with AWE, Digi-Capital, an AR/VR/XR advisory company, recently conducted a survey of AR and VR industry leaders about the most important smart glasses platforms. Microsoft ranked first with 77% saying it was important. Magic Leap followed at 67%. Apple came in third at 43% — even though Apple does not have a smart glasses product.
Tim Merel and Isabel Hierholtz of Digi-Capital will be on hand to answer questions about the survey at AWE USA today and tomorrow. Merel will deliver a keynote on The Reality of Spatial Computing: What’s Working in 2019 (and Where It Goes from Here), today at 9:30 am. Hierholtz will be part of a panel on The Habits of Highly Successful AR/VR Startups tomorrow, May 30, at 11:30 am.
Microsoft, Rokid, Magic Leap, nreal, Vuzix, Kopin, Shadow Creator, ThirdEye and RealWear are all exhibitors at AWE USA this year.
Smart Glasses Moving from Enterprise to Consumers
Up to this point, smart glasses are mostly used in an enterprise setting to assist with remote customer service and similar applications. Gaming and personal use make up a much smaller portion of the overall market.
Digi-Capital predicts that the landscape will change as early as 2023. Microsoft, Google and a variety of startups will drive the shift toward more consumer-focused products.
Thus far, the main obstacle to bringing smart glasses to mainstream centers is making a product that has a long battery life while being lightweight enough for long-term wear. Without the prospect for widespread use, developers are hesitant to invest resources in creating apps for smart glasses.
In some ways, it’s the ultimate “chicken and the egg” problem. However, experts predict that Microsoft and Magic Leap will lead the way in solving this problem over the next few years.
Apple’s Role in the Smart Glasses Marketplace
Apple does not currently make smart glasses. However, its history of creating products that are high-functioning and aesthetically pleasing positions it well to enter the market — should the company choose to do so.
Whether Apple will enter the market is anyone’s guess. But support for that move in the XR community is high. The iPhone offers opportunities to tether glasses to the phone and eliminate the need for a Wi-Fi connection.
Adding smart glasses as an iPhone accessory would also allow Apple to package them with other iPhone accessories to make the price structure more appealing to consumers. Apple could capitalize on its strong brand loyalty and make smart glasses as ubiquitous as the iPhone.
Apple could also drive AR and VR innovation on the developer side by encouraging app creators to add smart glasses functionality to new and existing products. The same would hold true for Samsung and other smartphone makers.