AR Devices of 2021, The Now and The Future
The excitement around Augmented Reality (AR) continues to be fueled by the tech industry leaders. From new product teasers to roadmaps and official launch dates. We have heard many exciting announcements revolving around AR last year, making more headlines in 2021. Today, as we have completed the first half of the year, we would like to take a look at the devices promised, what has already been launch and what is yet to come.
Before we dive into the devices let's have a quick look at AR, as a technology in general. Out of the immersive technologies, AR is the one that is most entwined into the real world. It allows to enhance everyday life with digital capabilities and visual overlays, making it a powerful tool for both businesses and consumers.
We continue to see global industry players implementing and making their moves in the AR domain. With Kia and Audi promising AR windshields, growing popularity of AR Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), recent Snap Inc. acquisition of WaveOptics Ltd, the makers of mass market AR displays, and much more. Like with any prominent technology, the market growth figures show the actual scale of potential future outreach. With the AR market estimated to hit USD 72.7 billion by 2024.
The topic of AR has been picked up in many global tech and industry events. The 2021 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), one of the most influential annual tech events on the global scale, has served as a platform for a number of exciting AR announcements, from Vizux, Lenovo, Blickfeld and many more. The VR/AR association (VRARA) June 2021 Global Summit, had an extensive pool of AR topics, covering latest industry trends, connecting professionals in the immersive technology field from all around the world to share vision and ideas.
Having said all that, let’s now look at the AR devices of 2021 and their potential to become the gamechangers of both tomorrow and the future.
During the CES 2021, Vuzix announced the launch of their Next Gen Smart Glasses which are reported to arrive already this summer. The glasses came as a true breakthrough during the CES 2021 taking 3 Innovation Awards. This latest pair of microLED smart glasses have quite a contrast to the traditional Vuzix models. Their ordinary eyewear design makes the pair suitable and easily wearable in public. The glasses are promised to be compatible with Wifi and optional LTE, and to feature immersive stereo speakers, noise cancelling microphones, and a selection of both mono and multi-colour uLED displays. The gesture-based touch controls should be supported for both Android and iOS. According to the latest Vuzix press releases the Next Gen Smart are rapidly gaining popularity in the healthcare industry.
Lenovo has also made its new Smart Glasses announcement during CES 2021, reporting availability in mid-2021. In the official Press Release, Lenovo’s new ThinkReality A3, were communicated as ‘the most versatile enterprise smart glasses ever’. The glasses are promised to break the boundaries of a traditional workspace, designed to be used as a convenient augmented display for both at home and on factory floor use. The glasses promise to enable users to select their workplace and customize it to suit their physical work location as well as personal preferences. That way, the user will feel like they’ve never left the office, which may aid employees in overcoming some of the psychological challenges of the lockdowns and remote work. The new Lenovo glasses are promised to be Motorola moto g100 compatible, which supports both the 5G and Wifi-6 connection as well as compatible with Lenovo ThinkPad P Series PCs.
On May 20, 2021 Snap Inc. issued an official introduction to their Next Generation of Spectacles aimed at AR creators, which was shared during the Snap Partner Summit 2021. The new lightweight spectacles are built using the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 Platform leveraging 6 DOF (degree of freedom) including hand, surface and marker tracking, providing a 26.3-degree FOV (field of vision). The spectacles feature dual 3D waveguide display, 2 RGB cameras, touchpad, 4 inbuilt microphones as well as 2 stereo speakers. The displays dynamically adjust to both indoor and outdoor use. Even though today Snap Spectacles are not aimed at general consumers, it is clear that they can open the door to more unique immersive content creation in the long run.
Facebook has announced its pair of AR smart glasses back in Autumn 2020, the sneak peak of their collaboration with Ray Ban. Originally communicated as a potential new set of AR glasses, with an ambition to be launched already in 2021. Not much detail is still known about the device, with even the approximate launch date remaining a mystery. In the recent month more news appeared on how Facebook has had to lower the expectations for the originally planned AR capabilities of the device. As not much information has been shared or leaked so far, what is left is to only wait and see for oneself what Facebook will end up delivering.
With more devices coming to the market, we can expect a rapid increase in demand for both business and consumer aimed AR experiences. What seems like baby steps today, is about to accelerate progressively, allowing to enhance our reality of tomorrow as well as much further in the future.