2023 will be the year of AR glasses – here’s what to expect

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The promise of augmented reality (AR) is that it will fundamentally alter how we live and how we work. When a virtual world is put on top of our real world, there are no limits to how we can interact with each other, process information, and understand the world.

However, AR hasn’t lived up to expectations. While many of us have played games like Pokemon Go! and utilised dog filters on social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat, we can’t really say that these things have seriously impacted our regular lives just yet.

One of the most common reasons given for why AR isn’t used more often is that there isn’t enough equipment for it. How many people that you know frequently wear smart glasses? The global AR/VR smart glasses market is expected to increase by $7297.59M between 2023 and 2027, but adoption is still on the rise.Join now

And it’s only a matter of time before we witness an AR boom, what with buzzy new industries like the metaverse and 5G buzzing around. So, where is it right now? And in what direction is it going?

The current state of AR

There are still many applications for AR that are now in use, even though smart glasses with AR capabilities may not yet be ubiquitous.

Applications of today frequently take the shape of HUDs, or Head-up Displays, which are transparent displays that present data without obstructing the view, something like a window with notes on it. Aside from the fact that they are data, notes are environments that alter and adapt.

HUDs were first created for use in military aeroplanes. The Integrated Visual Augmentation System, a $22 billion programme launched by the American Army this year, will create mixed reality battle goggles (IVAS). With the new eyewear, soldiers can talk to each other in real time about things like maps or where the enemy is while they are in combat.

However, HUDs are currently utilised in a variety of industries, including commercial aviation and vehicles. Given that they can show important information on a vehicle’s windscreen, such as instructions, without requiring the driver to take their eyes off the road, HUDs are particularly seen to be the next step in advancing driver experience in cars. This kind of AR HUD is already being used by automakers like Kia, which has it in cars like the Kia EV6, Kia Niro, and more.

Assisted reality is a different version of AR that is being used in a variety of fields. It is similar to Augmented Reality in that data is displayed on a screen over the user’s surroundings, but it is less immersive. One business, RealWear, creates wearables for aided reality, such as smart eyewear, for front-line workers in healthcare, energy, manufacturing, and automotive industries.

The goals of assisted reality are to keep the user’s attention and situational awareness in the real world, with a direct line of sight, according to Jon Arnold, VP of EMEA at RealWear. Today’s use cases for XR, or extended reality, which includes both augmented reality and assisted reality, are primarily focused around industry and safety, he says.

Arnold uses the example of RealWear goggles, which are utilised in production settings to support engineers remotely. “These wearables allow a local engineer to submit data to a distant expert in real-time on the other side of the world while working in a very harsh and sometimes dangerous environment, such as the rain, high up, or at sea. Then, the local engineer can make the needed repairs safely and in real time with the help of the remote expert, who can now see the problem clearly through the eyes of the worker. This is explained by Arnold.

What is ahead for augmented reality and smart glasses?

The potential for how these glasses will revolutionise our user experience — and lives — grows as tech behemoths like Google, Apple, and Magic Leap inch closer to releasing new kinds of smart glasses.

For instance, consider the metaverse. However, headsets like The Magic Leap 2 provide a fully immersive experience even while XR technology isn’t yet ready for the metaverse (it’s too pricey, too bulky, or just not very good). In our March article, we talked about how the Magic Leap 2’s large and adjustable field of view makes the line between augmented reality and virtual reality harder to see. Users will need devices like these, such as smart glasses and goggles, to transport them to the metaverse if they intend to spend any meaningful time there.

However, putting hardware aside, 5G appears to be the main factor in how far AR will advance.

With hopes that, among other things, the technology will reveal the true worth of augmented reality, 5G has become one of the most talked-about technologies in the sector during the past four years, according to Arnold.

A new, ultra-low latency, high bandwidth network should be made available by 5G, making it considerably faster for AR to function on. This is important for use cases like being able to give instructions to someone remotely or for guided maintenance and repairs, like a remote repair specialist being able to write notes on broken parts that people on-site can read and then fix.

In 2023, let’s wear smart glasses in reality

With faster networks for AR, regular employees will be able to talk to their international teams better in real time. What precisely does this look like? With 5G-enabled AR, everyone in a virtual meeting or presentation would be able to see the same information at the same time and work together to interact with digital content in real time.

But according to Arnold, existing 5G still has a long way to go before it can fully support AR and VR: “We are watching the market closely, but the reality is, it will be a while before this vision becomes a reality, because 5G in the public network today delivers no uplink bandwidth improvement.”

In the interim, we’ll probably continue to see cutting-edge smart eyewear applications emerge, like how the Japanese customs office is utilising them to combat smuggling since customs agents can exchange photographs of cargo in real-time with knowledgeable officials elsewhere.

In addition, Arnold advises that we begin acclimating to wearing smart glasses while we wait for 5G to reach its full potential: “The most important thing corporations should do more of in 2023 is working on people… to improve adoption of wearables now, and get people used to them.”

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