While content creators are seemingly happy to invest in dedicated material for Augmented Reality users, there are echoes of the whole 3D debacle in terms of the buying public.
Norbert Hildebrand, an industry consultant in the high-tech sector and writing in specialist publication Display Daily, says that even though AR glasses are much more ‘wearable’ than Virtual Reality headsets, they are still “nerdy” and far from trendy.
He quotes data from the World Economic Forum, saying that there are about 7.4 billion people on this earth and 4.2 billion need some form of eyeglasses. In addition, 2.5 billion to not have access to the glasses they need. “This leaves 1.7 billion people that wear corrective eyeglasses today and 3.2 billion who do not need eyeglasses.”
Hildebrand says that while this is a substantial market base, as a group used to wearing glasses, many AR glasses do not allow people to wear their corrective glasses unless they are wearing contact lenses. “This brings up an interesting point of why are people using contact lenses instead of eyeglasses? Aside from technical reasons because of specific corrections that require one or the other lens form factor, the decision is based on economics or style. The person decides what fits better to their personal circumstances.”
He adds that while wearing contact lenses is seen as desirable – and affordable – in many parts of the world, in other markets (and Italy has an extremely low take up of contact lenses) price and fashion dictate usage. “What is trendy in one country may not be trendy in another. The differences are quite significant within the European Union. Other regions with lower income per capita are facing more of the question of how to pay for eyeglasses. However, these may also not be the most likely adoption centers for AR glasses anyway,” says Hildebrand.
He concludes that AR headsets will have a problem in the market because they are glasses that people do not want to wear in the first place. In a certain way one could argue that the same thing was part of the downfall of 3D glasses. People do not want to wear glasses unless it is necessary. This leaves the question what AR application is being viewed as a necessity by the consumer to make AR headsets a popular choice? The results may be sobering for the hardware guys.”