Real AR technology has not found a shortcut that can be accepted by consumers. Although people generally understand how AR technology’s hardware and software should work in theory-wearing glasses and seeing the real world covered by digital objects and logos-the technology required to achieve this goal is actually very difficult and requires many Big and small progress accumulates. Therefore, as of the last days of 2019, no one is actually selling practical consumer AR glasses.
This situation will begin to change in 2020. With the support of ambitious mobile operators, consumer AR hardware that relies on smartphones will soon appear in stores. Consumer AR software will also continue to evolve. Although a completely independent AR solution like Microsoft Holo Lens 2 may still only be suitable for enterprises, enterprises will continue to study how to use Wi-Fi and 5G cellular network connections to liberate AR headsets from the physical connection of mobile phones and computers . Here are the mega trends to watch in 2020.
Consumer AR hardware
Leading technologists and their supporters in multiple industries predict that within a decade, people will access smart phone features through lightweight AR glasses, instead of manually lifting the phone screen to the front. Some will try to make this transition in 2020, but it remains to be seen whether it will take 10 years or less to become mainstream.
Qualcomm has spent 10 years investing in augmented reality technologies such as VR and AR. At present, Qualcomm provides chips for almost all VR and AR devices on the market. Now, the main driving force of consumer AR hardware comes from Qualcomm’s XR Viewer project, which assumes that the first round of practical consumer AR glasses will not be independent, but most of their power will come from USB-C binding Android smartphone with built-in Snapdragon 855 or newer chip.
The actual flagship product for this project is Nreal Light, a pair of lightweight AR glasses that uses multiple cameras, spatial tracking and a 1080p screen to enhance your feelings about the real world with bright digital content. Nreal has reached agreements with China Unicom, Deutsche Telecom, and Japan’s KDDI / Au to sell this $ 500 glasses next year, and in some cases, it will also carry carrier-specific Android applications that will take advantage of high-speed Network and new AR technologies. One of the demos showed that people with glasses can get computer repair instructions while viewing the hardware in person-including real-time, continuous annotations from remote personnel. Another demonstration is to allow the wearer to resist real-life zombies while using the phone as a position and gesture sensing controller.
Nreal’s glasses aren’t perfect, but they are more likely to allow mainstream users to quickly experience future wearable AR technologies than other products I currently know. In some markets, I wouldn’t be surprised to see people wearing sunglasses-like Light in public.
It’s unclear whether any other company will challenge Nreal with consumer AR technology challenges in 2020. Qualcomm’s XR Viewer project is open to many companies and vaguely implies that Nreal will not be the only glasses supplier compatible with Android next year, but the identity and specifications of competitors may not be known until CES in January next year, or even later. As an example, Niantic, the creator of Pokemon Go, has announced that it will work with Qualcomm to develop AR hardware, but details and release time are not yet clear.
Several key competitors are unlikely to enter the consumer AR hardware market anytime soon. After releasing the enterprise-oriented and expensive HoloLens 2 at the end of 2019, Microsoft does not seem to plan to provide consumer AR headsets in 2020. Magic Leap recently re-released its One Creator Edition, Magic Leap 1, and now the company seems to be more focused on enterprise users. In addition, Magic Leap said that they do not expect the next model to be released in 2020. Facebook also said that it is working on a 24/7 consumer wearable that may take several years to complete. Apple’s AR plan is still very vague so far.
Last year, I was generally pessimistic about AR due to endless hardware and software releases. As I said in July 2018: I’m not saying that the list of practical AR apps has ended since Pokemon Go, but no other app has reached a similar level.
Nearly a year and a half later, Pokemon Go is still the biggest success story in the AR-based gaming industry–about $ 3 billion in huge assets–although the question remains whether it is truly AR , As it is with all other tablet and smartphone applications, augmented reality through the device ’s camera and screen. Millions of people use Snapchat’s AR filters to change the look of their faces or buildings, and who can say that these AR technologies are not as valuable as navigating or living in a “magic world”.
As I said last August, I think these applications are an attempt to move towards the true future of AR, and frankly, they are a necessary prerequisite to determine what people will and will not do with dedicated AR hardware. Do people really want to use AR to shop and renovate homes? Will they pay more for AR navigation integrated in the car’s windshield? If they are interested in such features in smartphone applications, the answer is likely to be yes.
Throughout 2020, we are likely to see a large number of applications targeted at early consumer AR wearable such as Nreal, as well as more applications through smartphones and tablets. I also hope to see some developers start trying to add wearable device support to existing AR applications appropriately, and hope that operators will promote more AR cooperation to showcase their 5G networks-this is our Snapchat and Verizon is seeing trends, while European, Japanese and South Korean operators are making similar deals overseas.
Wireless consumer AR: Wi-Fi and 5G cellular networks
By 2020, important things will happen behind the scenes: Qualcomm, Apple and other smartphone-based AR solutions companies will compete with each other over the question of which wireless technology will replace cables between 2021 and 2022. The main competitors are 802.11ay Wi-Fi and 5G.
Current chip and display technology cannot squeeze the processing power and screen capabilities of an entire smartphone into a lightweight pair of glasses. For this reason, Magic Leap moved most of its computing work to the big wearable ice hockey, Microsoft put it in a huge sunshade, and other companies are also using smartphones that are physically connected via USB-C cables to Reduce the weight of the glasses. The problem is that the cables will be obvious and in some cases may limit your range of movement.
Previous generations of Wi-Fi and cellular network standards did not have enough bandwidth to meet low-latency, high-frame-rate XR displays, so they include Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), 60GHz Wi-Fi (802.11ay), and medium and high The latest standards including the band 5G (3.5GHz or millimeter wave) will wirelessly connect AR glasses to nearby smartphones, computers or direct networks equipped with edge cloud computers in the future.
It is unlikely that we will see real consumer wireless AR hardware in 2020, but it is possible that early demos will appear later in 2020. Assuming they work, this will remind us that consumer AR technology is still in its infancy and there will be a lot of exciting developments in the next 10 years.