The Race Toward Technology Leadership Among AR OEMs

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3Q 2018 | IN-5232

The Blade smart glasses announced by Vuzix at MWC 2018 have received certifications from both the United States and the European Commission in July 2018, allowing shipments to developers. Vuzix’s smart glasses lineup is mostly focused on the enterprise and industrial markets, but moving forward, the consumer market will become a significant driver of AR hardware development. Vuzix has developed mobile applications around social media, navigation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and HD photography and videography. The Blade utilizes Vuzix’s own waveguide optics and features Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology, which offers advantages in brightness as compared to conventional refractive and reflective optics.

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Vuzix Blade Smart Glasses Get Upgraded to Target Consumer Market

NEWS


The Blade smart glasses announced by Vuzix at MWC 2018 have received certifications from both the United States and the European Commission in July 2018, allowing shipments to developers. Vuzix’s smart glasses lineup is mostly focused on the enterprise and industrial markets, but moving forward, the consumer market will become a significant driver of AR hardware development. Vuzix has developed mobile applications around social media, navigation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and HD photography and videography. The Blade utilizes Vuzix’s own waveguide optics and features Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology, which offers advantages in brightness as compared to conventional refractive and reflective optics.

As OEMs continue to enhance their smart glasses, the industry will move away from mobile device-based AR. At the moment, AR on mobile devices is growing in capability quickly, which impacts smart glasses usage. It is expected that around 1.4 billion mobile devices will be AR-enabled by 2023, versus 30 million smart glasses shipments in the same year. The ability to go hands-free will become the major differentiator between handheld AR devices based on mobile phones and AR smart glasses or headsets. We expect that the introduction of consumer-focused smart glasses such as the aforementioned Blade could shift this drastically. (For more information, please refer to the ABI Research market data Augmented and Mixed Reality Devices and Enterprise Verticals (MD-ARMR-101)).

Smart Glasses OEMs Are Pushing on All Fronts

IMPACT


Aside from integrating better technologies, smart glasses OEMs have also adopted other strategies to gain technology leadership:

  • Partnership with Vertical-Specific Vendors: United States-based ODG is attempting to enter the Japanese AR market by collaborating with Japanese telco KDDI. The R-9 smart glasses introduced to Japan target light enterprise and prosumer users, which offer an opportunity to improve market outlook. Another United States-based OEM, RealWear, signed a partner agreement with Honeywell to co-brand and sell RealWear products for the global market. The partnership set up a joint venture with Realmax in China in 2017, paving the way for the U.S. technology company to accelerate its reach in China.
  • Increasing Smart Glasses Usability: Epson cooperated with the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI, providing a flight simulator experience and transparent display of the drone’s flight statistics and video feed using Epson’s Moverio BT-300 smart glasses. RealWear HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 can be used to visualize IoT data. Microsoft HoloLens’s Research mode access to sensor data is appealing to researchers and developers who could get access to a wider range of data.
  • Boosting the Software Ecosystem: Two of the premium smart glasses manufacturers, DAQRI and Magic Leap, decided to focus on developing their software system. DAQRI is seeking to build the software ecosystem for its DAQRI Smart Glasses because the success of this software would aid in driving enterprise adoption. DAQRI provides five apps that serve as useful tools for the workforce. Magic Leap has opened its software development kit Creator Portal for AR app developers, which offer resources for app development for the just-released Magic Leap One headset.

Too Early to Determine the Race Winner(s)

RECOMMENDATIONS


As AR smart glasses or device manufactures, it is always vital to strengthen technology leadership and invest in R&D. Future AR smart glasses versions will include increased resolutions and fields of view; more powerful processing; and thinner, brighter displays. Along with growing AR capacities of mobile devices and maturation of ARKit, ARCore, and other similar SDKs, hands-free will become the major difference between smart glasses and AR-enabled smartphones or tablets. For instance, if AR is served as an advanced tool for providing real-time instructions and guidance, monocular head-worn devices are good enough. Their lower cost and simpler implementation makes them the primary choice. If 3D visuals are needed, binocular smart glasses are the better option for highly immersive applications for media and entertainment, training, and simulation.

As such, applications and use cases determine the requirements and designs of AR devices. AR hardware vendors should keep in mind the balance between more functions and manufacturing costs. For example, the favorable waveguide technology that leads to smaller see-through displays currently is plagued with high cost due to the manufacturing process and rejection rates. More functions might be at the cost of comfort, such as additional sensors adding mass and size to the devices as well as heightening the overall power footprint.

Moreover, partnership is the quickest and most effective path to scale, either through collaboration with mobile operators for distribution or cooperation with software vendors for enhanced development. For small and innovative companies, partnership with larger OEMs will enable wide production and distribution. Increased usability and accessibility will introduce new use cases and ultimately add more value and users for the AR market.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Leadership in the AR hardware market will be determined by several factors, i.e., vendors that offer the latest technologies will not necessarily win the race because it is a balancing act to find the right technology for the right use cases. The adoption of technology must depend on the type of use cases while taking into account cost, comfort, content, and user convenience. For more information, please read the ABI Research report Augmented and Virtual Reality Device Connectivity (AN-2806).

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