Co-Founder/CEO of demodernAn award-winning creative technology agency developing innovative digital experiences, products and projects.
Throughout history, our relationship with technology has evolved. From primitive tools to today’s artificial intelligence, every innovation has shaped our journey. The Walkman revolutionized personal entertainment and Motorola’s DynaTAC 8000X ushered in the era of mobile communications in 1973. Today, the smartphone is the gateway to the digital world. The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, which is merging into virtual transformation. XR or smartglasses can combine physical and digital experiences and hence, have the potential to replace smartphones in a more virtual world.
VR headsets: an important milestone
Immersive technology originated 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 field and made considerable progress.
The year 2010 proved to be a watershed moment with the unveiling of the Oculus Rift by Palmer Luckey. 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, this number increased to 21.76 million, indicating 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 an improved AR mode through an improved passthrough mode.
Augmented Reality: Rising Star
The digital age has undoubtedly reshaped our interactions with the world, and augmented reality (AR) is a prime example of this change. Acting as a refined version of VR, AR beautifully blends our tangible surroundings with the digital universe, creating immersive experiences.
In 2011, from Evan Spiegel’s family living room, Snapchat was born under the name “Pikaboo”. What started as a fun, fleeting messaging app took a significant leap forward with the $150 million acquisition of Looksery, a Ukrainian startup. This acquisition gave birth to the famous AR feature – Lens. These innovative filters, blending 3-D graphics with camera visuals, were an instant hit, establishing Snapchat as an AR trailblazer.
Meanwhile, Facebook was not one to miss out. Although their early efforts were similar to Snapchat, they soon forged their own path. After the stumble with Slingshot came a masterstroke: Stories on platforms like Instagram. But it was the introduction of camera effects, which evolved into Spark AR, that really marked their AR territory. This democratized AR, allowing anyone to create their own immersive experiences. Brands immediately saw the potential of the platform and leveraged it for new, engaging campaigns.
Niantic Labs, a Google spinoff, aims to enhance our world. While Field Trip offered AR-guided tours, Pokémon Go became iconic. By blending reality with digital Pokémon, it attracted 45 million top players, showcasing the charm of AR.
Today, AR/VR revenue reaches an impressive $942 million in 2022, with growth predicted to reach 1.4 billion AR device users by 2023. These figures don’t just highlight a rapidly growing industry; They tell the story of a visionary technology that has transformed from a concept to an everyday essential.
Merging Realities: AR Glasses and Emerging Technologies
The world of AR is marked by its wide diversity. From AR headsets that leverage the capabilities of smartphones to standalone wireless AR devices connected to 5G networks, we are seeing an expanding spectrum of devices that are capable of redefining our digital interactions. Here are some examples.
Workplace: Remote training with AR, virtual meetings, maintenance and management of machines through digital twins of physical machines.
Consumer Experience: Shopping in virtual stores, virtual try-ons, personalized digital fashion and gaming experiences integrated into the physical environment.
Education and training: Virtual classrooms and augmented reality-based training that provide hands-on experience.
Health care: Virtual consultation, AR-based surgery or medical training.
real estate: Virtual Property Tours, AR-based visualization of properties.
Entertainment: Movies or shows where the audience can be a part of the experience, concerts in virtual arenas, etc.
The buzz around Apple’s Vision Pro serves as evidence of this quick progress. As Apple’s foray into the AR headset domain, it’s anticipated to be more than just a novel gadget, but a harbinger of a potential shift where AR devices could one day eclipse smartphones. This is largely due to the immense potential they hold, 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 not only project data but also understand the environment, the underlying context, and even the user’s behavior and intent in detail. With the analytical power of AI, AR transforms from a purely visual tool into an immersive 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 set 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 impact. To move ahead on this promising horizon, companies can keep the following aspects in mind.
Strategic Vision: Develop a clear vision and strategy for integrating AR, VR, and mixed reality into your business operations and offerings.
Technical Infrastructure: Ensure that 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.
Adopt digital products: Consider how your product line might evolve. Such as the rise of digital fashion.
Risk Mapping: Rigorously assess potential threats, especially in areas such as data privacy, cybersecurity, and ethical considerations.
Cultural Readiness: Foster a company culture that is able to embrace and embrace innovation and change.
Skill Development: Invest in training programs to skill employees in AR and VR technologies.
We are on the cusp of seamless integration of digital and real-world experiences, with smart glasses being a potential cornerstone. They are dazzling gateways to a future where the boundaries between the digital and the tangible blur, opening up infinite possibilities and enriching our collective human experience.
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