Augmented reality is increasingly being integrated in many industries due to its enormous potential to create interactive experiences that combine the real world and computer-generated content. While AR hasn’t taken over yet, there is no doubt that that the technology will continue to evolve both in terms of software and hardware.
In contrast to VR glasses, AR glasses don’t close the world out, but allow individuals to be present while still providing them with a virtual experience. I personally like the idea of being able to have human contact, while also experiencing life from a virtual perspective.
Many retailers already use AR to provide a better customer experience. For example, the IKEA app allows you to virtually ‘place’ furniture and accessories in your room so you can make sure it fits your space and style. AR has similar applications in the fashion and cosmetic industries allowing customers to see themselves with new clothes and make-up before they buy them.
The above examples rely mostly on software and are very accessible to smartphone owners. For a complete AR experience however, we are going to need AR glasses. Combining software and hardware in a wearable device (some call it a hands-free extension of smartphones) is the key to blending the real world with the virtual one.
AR glasses – the present
Whilst opinions amongst experts and journalists are divided about how long it will take for AR glasses to become mainstream, there’s no denying that developers have come a long way. Google, Meta and Magic Leap are just few of the companies investing heavily in AR, the market size for which is expected to reach $184.61 billion by 2030 according to reports.
AR headsets are already being deployed in various industries including healthcare and manufacturing – I discussed some applications in my previous blog ‘Five exciting uses of AR and VR headsets’. But like most advanced technologies, AR glasses are complicated – components such as displays, optics, batteries, chips, sensors, and cameras all need to work together. They also need to be affordable for the mass market.
AR glasses – the future
While the price tag is an important factor for AR glasses to become widely adopted, the comfort of the users wearing them is a fundamental factor for the success of this technology. To achieve this, everyone in the supply chain has a role to play. Batteries need to last longer, processors need to be powerful and efficient, displays and optics need to meet the demanding human vision requirements, and they all must do this while also meeting size and weight constraints.
As a marketing professional, a big part of my job is to raise awareness of the benefits FlexEnable technology brings to customers and how it adds value. That’s why I am excited that the FlexEnable team plays a role in improving AR glasses technology by developing innovative solutions that can be incorporated into optical components – such as biaxially curved ultra-thin and light liquid crystal (LC) films.
The stackable nature of our flexible LC technology offers game-changing optical performance through multi-functional stacks just a few hundred microns thick. LC cells can solve the problem of rendering outdoor scenes when there is high ambient brightness, where occlusion of real objects behind virtual ones becomes difficult as the background illumination drowns out the virtual image. Our strategy director, Dr. Paul Cain explains more in his blog on ambient dimming. This functionality is key for the next generation of AR glasses.
It will take some time for AR glasses to become mainstream as the smartphone, but I can picture a not too distant future where everyone uses them in one way or another to transform their experiences and life.
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