In 2020, the global market for virtual and augmented reality (VR-AR) goods and services is expected to reach $18.8 billion (including $3.3 billion in Western Europe), an increase of 78.5% compared to this year. IDC anticipates an average annual increase in the market value of 77% until 2023.
Known through Snapchat filters or the Pokémon Go smartphone game, augmented reality continues to appeal to younger generations and developers. The market is really starting to grow in many sectors through smartphones and tablets. But one question remains unanswered after the bitter failure of Google Glass, where are smart glasses and augmented reality?
Augmented or virtual reality? A difference between two different sectors
Augmented reality eyewear fascinates many companies who now want to make it their business. As their name suggests, they increase reality as opposed to virtual reality which plunges the user into a virtual world. They only consist of superimposing virtual reality. Companies are well aware that users would be very interested in such an object. A real market should develop within the next few years, but for the moment augmented reality still appears to be in retreat contrary to virtual reality.
If the two elements remain close, a detail differentiates them. Virtual reality consists of plunging into a virtual world generally thanks to a helmet equipped with a 3D screen. The user remains completely immersed and cannot see what surrounds him. Conversely, augmented reality consists of inserting virtual elements into everyday life. The user can see what surrounds him through the glass of the glasses while seeing the elements made from scratch. Another difference must also be made in this area between augmented reality glasses and so-called intelligent glasses. The first ones consist of inserting characters, elements in the landscape when the second ones are rather intended to assist the user. With intelligent glasses, the user will be able to see his agenda, be guided by a live GPS. They give information directly on the glasses with the help of a small screen, but in no case, they consist in “increasing” reality.
Augmented reality glasses in different sectors
Unlike virtual reality helmets, augmented reality goggles still remain in the shadows. But companies have understood the craze they could cause and are interested in them for many reasons. If smart glasses only assist the user, augmented reality has several advantages. Prototypes are starting to develop around different sectors such as art, education, or entertainment.
If such a prototype necessarily involves the creation of video games to make your living room a world of its own, augmented reality eyewear could well be used for other purposes. Many prototypes try to develop extraordinary experiences around tourism or art. Epson for example with its Moverio BT-350 has developed an immersion experience to visit Barcelona. More powerful than an audio guide, they help the user immerse himself in the history of the Catalan city. They can walk around normally with these glasses while seeing the city in the past. In particular, this experience allows users to discover Barcelona from a different angle and to have simplified access to the culture. Augmented Reality Glasses can make a significant contribution to education and culture for the younger generation. The projects seem to be relevant for many fields, but the manufacturers are still at the prototype stage.
Google Glass, the failure of smart glasses
Whether it’s smart eyewear or augmented reality, prototypes don’t always cause a sensation. The different companies in Silicon Valley have almost all developed an eyewear project, but most of them are encountering difficulties. If the bitter failure of Google Glass speaks to everyone, it was still the first glasses to be marketed. For a price of 1500 dollars, they allowed assisting users in their daily life. Designed in particular to take photos and videos in the blink of an eye, they quickly created controversy. The American company, although well ahead of its time, was accused of filming the lives of users without their knowledge. Provoking then a controversy on the respect of privacy and the storage of personal data, Google preferred to remove its glasses from the sale.
The promises of American companies
This bitter failure has cooled more than one manufacturer on the project of smart glasses or augmented reality. Several companies have now announced the launch of their glasses. Microsoft had promised two years ago, the launch of its HoloLens, glasses in augmented reality, Intel announced to realize intelligent glasses with its Intel Vaunt, and Epson continues to develop its prototype Moverio BT-350. Other companies like Bose have kept the concept to make hearing smart glasses. They will identify the user’s environment and then assist the user in speaking. All of these companies keep announcing their different models, but marketing is still not up to date. The announcement of projects coupled with the delay of the different releases of each product does not bode well. For some, the technology is not yet ready, others have a concept that is not very relevant to continue developing their prototype, leading to questions in the tech sector.
Intelligent or augmented reality glasses still fascinating, but for the moment, virtual reality and its helmets remain in the forefront. Companies are not in a hurry, which presages difficulties within their technology. If some companies still announce that their glasses are accessible to developers, for the moment they remain unknown to consumers. The market is proving to be relatively interesting for companies, which is what motivates them to create this type of technology. The accumulated delay can be seen as worrisome, but in the next few years, one or two projects should well see the light of day.
Connected glasses, always the wind in the sails
For Mark Zuckerberg, the future lies with connected glasses. The CEO of Facebook= believes that connected glasses will be the next technological revolution. Mark Zuckerberg: “The technology platform of the year 2010 was the cell phone. The platform of the 2000s was the web, and the 1990s was the desktop. Every computing platform is becoming more accessible and more natural for us. I expect phones to remain our main devices for most of this decade, but at some point, in the 2020s, we will have revolutionary augmented reality glasses that will redefine our relationship with technology.
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