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Think back to your first brush with virtual reality (VR). Was it a bulky gaming console headset? A walk-in simulator? The 1984-esque glove and headset apparatuses shown above?
Now, juxtaposition that image to how you know VR to be today—Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and others. Quite a difference, right? As VR has been busy evolving, another player in this space—augmented reality (AR)—has been gaining serious traction, changing everything from how we approach marketing and the future of work to how we receive healthcare.
AR’s growth is so substantial that it’s set to far outpace virtual reality. The AR market is projected to reach a whopping $1.3 trillion by 2035. If you need more perspective, that’s a full quarter of online commerce. What’s driving AR’s growth? What are the intricacies of the different type of augmented reality—mixed reality and assisted reality—and what do they mean to the future of this market? Let’s explore.
The Future of AR Glasses: Report Highlights
A recent report from tech market intelligence firm Tractica shed light on the market for AR glasses—also called “smart” glasses. By analyzing that report, we can glean information about the future of these technologies. Before we dive into the report, let’s talk about the different kinds of AR.
- What is Assisted Reality? Assisted reality, according to the study, describes a technology in which digital images are layered onto actual reality “without any specific knowledge of the environment.” Need an example? Google Glass—yes, the product that has been dubbed “a miserable failure” is one application of this type of assisted reality. While we’re on the subject, it’s important to note that while Google Glass initially flopped, the technology and concept behind it—redefining the capabilities of what AR can look like as a wearable in the enterprise—was a success.
- What is Mixed Reality? Mixed reality, according to the study, describes a technology that goes beyond assisted reality in that it’s far more immersive. A person wearing mixed reality-enabled glasses can interact with holographic objects using tracking devices and depth sensors. Microsoft’s HoloLens is an example of a mixed reality application—an enterprise-focused product that is becoming increasingly popular in markets like defense, education, and industrial spaces.
Now that we’ve defined key terms, let’s examine some highlights from the report:
- In 2016, there were around 150,000 pairs of smart AR glasses shipped globally. The firm forecasts that number to rise to 22.8 million annual smart glasses shipments by 2022—a huge increase.
- The volume increase, of course, will affect revenue growth. What was a $138.6 million market in 2016 will be a $19.7 billion market by 2022. And remember, this projection describes the market for glasses alone. The entire AR market, as I mentioned earlier, is also on the rise.
- Between 2018 and 2022, more mixed reality headsets will be sold than assisted reality headsets. In fact, by 2022, 21 million glasses sold will be mixed reality based, and only two million will be rely on assisted reality. The gap in those figures is incredibly telling as we look to the future of the smart glasses market and the AR market as a whole.
Don’t let talk of all these “realities” distract you from the singular reality of the market: AR is going nowhere but up, and it will surpass VR sooner rather than later. AR has two main branches. Today, assisted reality is what we’re seeing in use in industrial and enterprise applications. Mixed reality, while we’re getting a tease with some products on the market, is still largely in development. When THAT hits the mainstream, watch out.
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Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”