Consumers are used to smartphones being part of their daily lives, but with the advancement of Augmented Reality (AR) technology, could smartphones become a thing of the past and could AR glasses go on to replace them?
In this blog, we’ll look at the potential capabilities of AR glasses and what they could mean for the future.
What are Augmented Reality (AR) glasses?
AR glasses are wearable technology, where a small screen or projection is placed in front of the user’s eyes. This allows users to see digital information overlaid on top of the real world.
Evolving AR technology
Several companies have been testing the water with AR glasses and although they are not currently widely adopted, it has shown what is possible and is leading the way for other influential brands to enter the market.
‘Air Glass’, developed by mobile phone brand Oppo, is currently only available in limited quantities in China, as is the compatible Oppo phone. But the single lens and monochrome micro LED projector is proving popular, fitted with a waveguide to project the light, plus a small speaker and a trackpad to swipe, tap and press.
Endorsed by influential tech brands
Innovative and influential tech brands are investing in AR. Apple and Meta are both expected to launch their AR headsets in 2024. This investment in the technology could lead to an explosion in adoption rates.
Meta has already had great success with their Oculus VR headsets, so their AR headsets are tipped to be extremely successful too.
Qualcomm, a leading wireless tech innovator and Oppo both predict that AR headsets will become an extension of smartphones. Other experts believe AR headsets will evolve beyond this in a few years time, to replace smartphones. Apple analyst, Ming Chi-Kio being one, who confirms Apple plans to replace the iPhone with AR glasses in the next 10 years.
How could AR glasses revolutionise daily experiences?
Create an enhanced immersive experience
Gamers, in particular, will be familiar with escaping into a virtual reality, with the help of AR glasses this could be possible in daily life, as our environment and what we are seeing can be enhanced.
Use AI to access information
AI can help to identify objects and places by overlaying digital information on the user’s real environment, this would be particularly useful for navigating and education.
By putting on AR glasses, there is the potential for AI to analyse the world on your behalf, something that smartphones cannot replicate.
Enrich social interactions
AR glasses could be extremely helpful in social situations and prevent awkward moments, by remembering and displaying the name of the person you just met on the screen in front of your eyes, when you may otherwise struggle to remember their name.
It could also help users pick up on social cues and correctly read body language, like gestures and posture, helping to prevent confusion and miscommunication.
With AR glasses it would be possible to provide a personal user experience, based on the user’s preferences and behaviours.
Provide a hands-free solution
Wearing lightweight AR glasses would provide a hands free-solution that may be beneficial whilst exercising or driving.
Smartphones and smartwatches can already track user’s exercise levels, but AR glasses could go a step further by having sensors to monitor chronic health conditions.
Why are AR glasses becoming more popular?
Familiar concept and convenient product
When new products are launched, consumers tend to gravitate towards familiar products. With 59% of UK citizens already wearing glasses, adding technology to create a lightweight pair of AR glasses would mean they are convenient and accessible to many.
Enhances smartphone functionality
People are already using smartphones to interact with their surroundings, with apps such as Google Lens to translate road signs or menus, or Google maps to experience a street view and step by step instructions.
Consumers are also familiar with using filters on apps like Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram, so overlaying digital information to enhance the user experience seems a logical next step.
For AR glasses to become widely used, there are some significant challenges that would need to be overcome:
Large investment in infrastructure
For AR glasses to get accurate information about their surroundings, an extensive infrastructure of sensors and superfast wireless networks may be required. So every physical object and building could broadcast its own information and AR glasses wouldn’t have to identify each object. But it would present a large-scale problem for engineers and require significant investment.
Overcoming AI biases
Programming may be necessary to overcome potential racial, gender, age and cultural biases, to ensure representative facial recognition. Training may also be needed to ensure the user’s environment can be accurately interpreted in different lighting conditions and settings.
Computers don’t experience emotions as humans do, so it will be hard to teach them empathy and to interact upholding human values and ethics.
AR glasses typically have built-in cameras and microphones that can capture images, video and audio, which could lead to privacy concerns if the glasses are used in sensitive areas, or if they are hacked to capture data without the user's knowledge.
Users may not have complete control over their data, as it may be stored or processed by third-party apps or services. This can lead to data breaches or misuse of personal information.
Unlike smartphones, which can be locked with a PIN or password, AR glasses can be easily removed and stolen. This can result in unauthorised access to sensitive data.
AR glasses can also collect biometric data such as facial recognition or eye-tracking information. This data can be used to track the user's movements, identify them, or even steal their identity.
The Soumac View
Interest in AR glasses is definitely growing, consumers are already familiar with using apps on their smartphones to interact with their surroundings and filters to enhance reality. AR glasses would make all this and more possible.
Initially it is likely that consumers will use AR glasses in conjunction with smartphones. But there are some clear obstacles which need to be overcome in terms of security, privacy and infrastructure to make AR viable on a widespread scale.
As technology advances and more investment is made, it will be interesting to see whether AR glasses can replace smartphones completely, for a smartphone-free future.
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