In the Coordination Age, smart glasses could play a major role in boosting productivity. They would enable people to access information (hands-free) exactly when and where they need it. Over time, white-collar workers could benefit from being able to see 3D images of everything from architectural plans to colleagues on the other side of the world. Smart glasses could also enhance leisure time by enabling people to watch live holograms of football matches or music concerts. To serve these different use cases, the AR market is splitting into segments with two quite different formats:
- Outdoor lightweight AR glasses designed to be worn out and about. The main use case will be the timely provision of useful information, such as directions or alerts.
- Indoor AR headsets, which are heavier and are designed to support entertainment and communication use cases, involving the creation of avatars or the projection of live holograms (a use case that is of major interest to telcos because it requires a high bandwidth connection)
The first Apple Glass looks set to fall into this first category of AR headware and is likely to be fairly stylish, but reasonably bulky and designed to support specific tasks, such as watching maintenance videos (while trying to fix something), redesigning interiors, or for navigating when riding a bike or a scooter. Although this first iteration of Apple Glass might make it to market by the end of 2021, it is likely to be priced near US$500. Acceptable wireless AR glasses (lightweight and reasonably priced) that people will be happy to wear for a reasonable length of time are likely to become available in late 2022. By that point, Apple, Vuzix, Facebook and others should have successfully harnessed MicroLEDdisplay technology. The table above indicates how these outdoor glasses could develop over the next five years.