Augmented reality (AR) glasses aren’t ready for widespread consumer use yet, but the future looks promising.
The company formerly known as Facebook opened the floodgates on October 28 when it announced its rebrand to Meta Platforms (“Meta”), short for the metaverse. In the words of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “You’ll move across [digital] experiences on different devices — augmented reality glasses to stay present in the physical world, virtual reality to be fully immersed, and phones and computers to jump in from existing platforms. This isn’t about spending more time on screens; it’s about making the time we already spend better.”
Zuckerberg’s (and others’) enthusiasm for the metaverse and creating more shared, digital experiences will invigorate the augmented reality glasses market. However, that invigoration needs to be coupled with changes to the current AR market.
Here’s where we are today:
- Consumer-ready AR glasses are five to 10 years from mass adoption due to tech limitations. We don’t have technology at the weight, price, and performance needed to support widespread consumer AR use. For starters, AR glasses need to weigh under 100 grams. That’s two to four times heavier than the average pair of sunglasses but still light enough to be comfortable. Designers must choose between a host of trade-offs to determine which capabilities will fit on a thin glasses frame and often can only put in a few rudimentary pieces of tech. AR glasses today are similar to a rotary dial phone in the history of the telephone: an advancement at the time with room for improvement in terms of mobility, weight, and function.
- True AR headsets are primarily for enterprise use cases. Smart glasses (e.g., Ray-Ban Stories and Snap Spectacles 3) are capable of recording content but lack the waveguide technology needed for users to truly experience augmented reality. A waveguide increases the AR capabilities on a headset while unfortunately also increasing the cost into a price range most consumers are unwilling to pay.
- Interest in the metaverse will fuel investment in AR glasses. Enthusiasm about the metaverse will cause more companies to research and invest in the AR space, but improvements and mass consumer adoption won’t happen overnight. Companies that are already experimenting with smart glasses will continue to refine and add capabilities, while new brands try to catch up to those with a head start.
To find out more about the market for consumer AR glasses, you can read our new report: Forrester Infographic: AR Glasses Won’t Give Consumers 20/20 Vision Yet.
Senior Research Associate Alessia Stewart contributed to this blog post.