AR glasses have thus far failed to truly catch on for consumers, often conjuring up images of clunky shades that offer little in the way of actually useful features. This was certainly the case of Google Glass back in 2012. It has since been a victim of ridicule and resulted in the product being swiftly taken off the market for regular consumers. Many argued that Google Glass was too expensive and sought to meet a non-existing need. At the same time, the capability of the device to record constantly raised serious privacy concerns.
Fast forward five years and AR is on a fast-track into entering consumer lives. It already has multiple applications in a number of industry environments. And when it comes to consumer wearables, rumors are flying that Apple is planning to release its own version of AR glasses by 2022. With Apple’s strength in minimalist design and its know-how of how to incorporate features that people want, should we expect these AR glasses to go mainstream?
While consumers have yet to get their hands on sleek-looking, affordable AR glasses, the technology has been gaining swing in industries like manufacturing, with use cases expected to expand further into sectors such as interior design and retail. Let’s take a look at what is needed for AR glasses to succeed and where we can expect to see them take hold.
Current Offerings Mean a Tradeoff Between Price, Features, and Style
Right now, there are a number of AR glasses on the market. However, none of them quite check all the necessary boxes to score big with consumers globally.
Microsoft’s latest offering is the HoloLens 2 headset which boasts impressive capabilities. It displays computer programs over the user’s visual field, meaning users don’t have to sit in front of a computer to access information. However, the headset comes in at a steep $3,500 and is way too big for widespread use amongst consumers.
Snap also recently launched its Spectacles 3 glasses, which allow users to take photos and videos of their surroundings and later add AR effects within the Snapchat app. While these are much more affordable at $380 and are certainly more wearable thanks to their fashionable style, users can’t actually see any information through the glasses themselves.
Over at Google, the AR glasses project didn’t die completely. Google Glass stuck around for business customers, with the Glass Enterprise Edition 2 being used in industries such as manufacturing and healthcare. The glasses offer workers instructions above their natural line of sight, allowing them to undertake training and troubleshoot issues with information delivered to them in real time.
Industry Potential Will Continue to Grow
In manufacturing, AR glasses are helping out workers in a number of ways. By delivering real-time data and alerts to the user’s visual field, they allow workers to make optimal decisions, fast. Users can access this information without having to flip through an instruction manual – or use their hands at all, for that matter.
Boeing recently adopted AR glasses to simplify their assembly process and reduce training time. The company has since reported that the technology’s application resulted in a 30% job reduction time and 40% boost to productivity.
In retail, AR software is already allowing customers to virtually try on products like glasses, clothing, or makeup. As the functionalities of AR glasses develop, they could contribute to the rise of visual search in retail: Wearers could take photos of items in real time and search these photos to find out where to buy the product.
One sector where AR glasses are yet to make a splash – but we should expect it soon – is interior design.
AR glasses will enable users to envision how elements of interior design such as furniture, wallpaper, or fittings will look in an empty space, on the fly. Users will be able to decorate a room with everything to scale, while visualizing existing pieces alongside new designs. All without moving a finger.
With implemented measuring tools, AR glasses could speed up and automate the lengthy process of taking measurements to understand how things might fit. This will allow customers to make faster and better-informed real estate and interior design decisions. At the same time, designers will have a novel way to share their concepts.
The industry applications are many, and we should expect more to arise as the technology develops. But what about tech-savvy consumers that want to try this innovation for personal use?
What Will It Take for AR Glasses to Become Mainstream?
In addition to Apple’s future offering, Facebook has partnered with Ray Ban parent company Luxottica to launch their own AR glasses. The aim is to make them available for consumers by 2023. These companies no doubt have the technological know-how and resources behind them to produce the most cutting-edge product out there. However, whether or not it will stick with consumers remains unclear.
Current glasses with genuine AR features are too big and expensive to become widespread amongst consumers. On the other hand, sleeker, cheaper ones offer little in the way of innovative functionality.
The successful AR glasses of the future will need to look and feel like regular glasses. At the same time, they should remain affordable for the regular consumer. Companies will also need to assess carefully what their glasses’ features add to human capabilities that cannot be just as easily fulfilled by a smartphone. A great example here is the smartwatch. While many predicted the failure of the Apple Watch, its added health-focused features prevented it from becoming just another place to centralize mobile apps.
What isn’t up for debate is the fact that AR glasses will bring huge efficiency-driving and productivity-boosting potential for businesses across industries. We can see this already taking place in the manufacturing sector. Yet it remains to be seen whether AR glasses will become just as impactful as the consumer technology. This is up to players like Apple, Facebook, and Google to make sure they balance price, design, and functionality to hit that all-important market sweet spot.Guest Post
About the Guest Author(s)
Agnieszka Wilk is the CEO of Decorilla, an online interior design service that connects customers with vetted professional interior designers who create curated 3D and VR spaces based on customer style preferences and budget. With a team of over 300 interior designers and 200 furniture partners, Agnieszka led the first interior design firm to offer VR to clients. She has been featured in publications such as TechCrunch and VentureBeat.