True augmented reality hasn’t found an easy path to consumer adoption. In spite of general understanding of how AR hardware and software should theoretically work — put on glasses to see the real world overlaid with digital objects and signage — the technology needed to actually get there has been confoundingly difficult, requiring so many big and small advances that as of the last days of 2019, no one is actually selling viable consumer AR glasses.
That will start to change in 2020. Backed by ambitious cellular carriers, smartphone-dependent consumer AR hardware will soon become available in stores. Consumer AR software will continue to evolve, as well. And while fully standalone AR solutions such as Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 will likely remain exclusive to enterprises, companies will continue working on ways to free AR headsets from physical connections to phones and computers, using Wi-Fi and 5G cellular connections. Here are the big trends worth watching in 2020.
Consumer AR hardware: Nreal and everyone else
Leading technologists (and their supporters across multiple industries) predict that within a decade people will access the functionality of their smartphones through lightweight AR glasses rather than screens they manually hold up to their faces. Some people will try to make this transition in 2020, though whether it takes more or less than a decade to go mainstream remains to be seen.
Having spent 10 years investing in extended reality (XR) technologies — VR and AR — Qualcomm currently provides chips for virtually every VR and AR device on the market. Right now, the key impetus for consumer AR hardware is Qualcomm’s XR Viewer program, which posits that the first round of viable consumer AR glasses won’t be standalone, but will instead get most of their horsepower from USB-C-tethered Android smartphones with Snapdragon 855 or newer chips inside.
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