The smart glass market was valued at USD 3.89 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 7.96 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 12.66% over the forecast period 2021 – 2026 (Source: Mordor Intelligence)
Punctually every year the analysts and observers of the AR market begin to speculate on the fact that the current one could finally be the year of the mass affirmation of smart glass, and just as punctually at the end of the year the sales volumes turn out to be quite low to be able to talk about sales success.
What we have learned so far is that the smart glass market is certainly a very promising market, however there are still a number of obstacles that must be removed to facilitate its large-scale adoption, both in the Enterprise and the Consumer world.
For this reason we have decided to take a look at how the players in this market are moving in an attempt to understand what direction they are taking and on what type of devices they are orientating, in order to understand, as developers and end users, what we can expect in the coming months and years.
Microsoft is one of the few companies that has approached augmented reality wearables more successfully. Since the launch of the first version of Hololens, until today, the Redmond company has been able to create a functioning ecosystem of software and hardware, which has made Hololens the reference AR device for the Enterprise , while it has never coveted to become a Consumer product.
We expect to see Microsoft still at work for a long time in this area and we think it can succeed where it has failed with mobile devices.
Snap Inc., the company that owns the Snapchat social media platform has always been among the first to experiment with Augmented Reality in different forms, first by proposing AR filters on its app, then by launching the Spectacles, smart glass equipped with cameras and designed to make it easier to upload video and photo content from the glasses directly to the Snapchat account.
In the recent weeks we all read the news of the acquisition, by Snap Inc., of WaveOptics, a UK startup, purchased for 500 million dollars. WaveOptics is a manufacturer of displays for smart glasse, both for the optics and projection part and it is the same technology already used by Snap in its smart glass Spectacles 2021.
Snap’s move has the dual objective of strengthening itself in the hardware sector of Consumers Smart Glass, positioning itself among the leaders of this rapidly expanding market, but at the same time also defensive, to avoid excessive growth among its competitors.
For years we have been hearing rumors about a possible launch of AR Smart glass by Apple, but for the moment the Cupertino company has not yet released any device totally dedicated to Augmented Reality.
Apple has worked a lot on the software side, in particular with ARkit, to provide a valid tool for developing immersive applications and, on the other hand, it has equipped its iPhones with technologies capable of accurately mapping the surrounding environment, such as Lidar, with the aim to provide a basis for the fruition of advanced AR experiences.
Again, as of 2021, we just have rumors. They say Apple will finally release a Mixed Reality headset in 2022 and that it will be endowed with eye tracking capabilities, an 8K display and a 5 nanometers CPU. There are even presumed renders of such a project, but they haven’t been confirmed in any way.
What we know for sure is that Apple is not known to launch products in a prototype state, as for example did Google with the Google Glass, rather the company launches a new product when it is certain to obtain an adequate market response.
Facebook is one of the Tech Giants that has been investing more in immersive technologies for some years now, in particular with the acquisition of Oculus and the subsequent release of several successful VR devices.
But Facebook does not seem to want to stop there and has recently created the “Facebook Reality Labs” division, within which all the company’s efforts in the area of Mixed Reality converge.
Recent statements by CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook is working in partnership with the eyewear giant Luxottica on a new Mixed Reality device that will carry the RayBan brand.
Currently not much is known about this new product, except that it will not have a display and that it could resemble Snap Inc.’s Spectacles. So as the first non-VR smart glass, Facebook could release a simple smart glass, which connects to the mobile phone, but, it seems, without offering real functionality of viewing virtual objects in the real world.
In the uncertainty of a market that struggles to find the killer device, mobile devices remain a certainty, which in recent years have served as a vehicle for Mixed Reality towards the mass market.
Thanks to social networks, AR filters and several successful apps (e.g. Pokemon Go), Augmented Reality has landed on billions of devices, making them known all the advantages and, in some cases, the limits.
Mobile AR represents the compromise, the technology that already exists, affordable and accessible to all and which fills the gap left by the absence of an affordable and ergonomic AR smart glass for the masses. It is expected that the Mobile AR market will triple its value in the next three years. (Source: Statista)
As of today it is quite difficult to find a wearable device priced like a smartphone with all of its components, a dedicated CPU, a high resolution display, wifi, GPS, compass, etc…
Moreover smartphones can easily be adapted into wearable devices when used in combination with affordable Mobile VR headsets like the Google Cardboard or the Homido VR.
Leveraging on the computing power and advanced features of mobiles, it is possible, today, to turn smartphones into valuable Mixed Reality Headsets that allow to deal with a growing number of needs and applications while at the same time may guarantee both scalability and quality of experience.