Since the mass adoption of smartphones, technology has been veering in the direction of merging the physical world with the digital one.
From Google Glass to Pokemon Go, consumers are now being exposed to devices, technologies, and apps that take reality and augment it with digital information and experiences.
Today’s AR technologies focus mainly on wearable devices – such as glasses or headsets – that perform anything from pointing out directions to a location, or displaying the price of an item in the supermarket simply by looking at it.
AR has come a long way in recent years, with glasses and headsets now being able to perform advanced functions like helping doctors perform surgery. That being said, AR still has a ways to go in becoming a mainstream technology in society at large.
However, there are steps that the AR industry can take in order to bring augmented technology to the masses. Here are four changes that need to take place in order for AR to go mainstream.
1.Glasses Must be Ergonomic
The problem with many of the current AR glasses and headwear is that – simply put – they’re not very comfortable to wear.
For AR to gain mass adoption, the industry must pay attention to both the underlying technology as well as user interface and comfort. In terms of ergonomics, AR devices must seek to create a transparent interface that feels more like a natural extension of the user’s body, rather than a clunky device that they have to be mindful of at all times.
First and foremost, the AR industry needs to address the size and weight of glasses. This can potentially be accomplished in a number of ways, one of which would be to decrease the number of discrete optical elements required to operate the device.
In other words, the fewer parts it takes for the device to function, the less the glasses will weigh. If innovation in AR devices is focused on one thing, it should be ergonomics glasses that are comfortable, wearable, and easy to use.
2. Glasses Must Have Basic Utility
While advanced technical bells and whistles are great, AR companies and products need to focus on basic utility first to gain mass mainstream adoption. The problem is, advanced features appeal primarily to techies and tech users, but not to your average mainstream user.
AR products should focus on one or two core features and functions that have a large total addressable market. They can the integrate this functionality with software, technology, and services that users are already familiar with.
AR glasses, for example, could focus primarily on helping users navigate the real world, getting from point A to point B. Most users are already familiar with a service like Google Maps, so developing an interface similar to that would help ease new users into AR. Also, basic shopping apps that enable in lens purchases can inspire the consumer with added convenience. The industry can then layer more advanced features on top of basic ones, once mass adoption is achieved.
3.Glasses Must Incorporate Corrective Lenses
If there’s one piece of good news for the AR industry, it’s that roughly 75 percent of the population requires glasses or corrective lenses. That being said, the industry needs to take this into consideration, and incorporate corrective lenses into any future devices if they hope to take AR mainstream. If AR glasses can help correct for conditions such as astigmatism and myopia, they will help address a huge market need.
AR glasses first and foremost must be good glasses. Because the glasses are being worn of the face, a wide variety of frame selections is also highly important for user adoption.
Corrective vision capabilities also go hand in hand with the need for ergonomics. If users can continually upgrade their eyewear prescriptions based on changes in their vision over time, AR glasses will become more attractive to this large segment of the population over time. AR smartglasses are an upgrade to glasses more so than a traditional consumer electronics product.
4. Glasses Must Have a Wide Field of View
Finally, AR devices are going to need to provide a wide field of view for mainstream users. Unfortunately, most current glasses only offer 40 to 50 degrees of vision due to the technical limitations of the technology.
Future AR optical systems will need come closer to our binocular (horizontal) field of view ≅114 degrees, which is what a person currently sees normally without AR glasses. A critical part of creating a user-friendly interface that will appeal to the masses is providing them with a field of view closer to what they’re normally accustomed to. There are a number of recent developments that can help to achieve this goal.
What’s more, the information displayed on the device should be visible across the user’s full scope of vision. If users have to consciously focus on one or two parts of their field of vision to digest the information they need, they’ll view the device more as a distraction rather than something that adds value to their daily experience. Again, the AR industry needs to think about providing a wide field of view in terms of making AR devices simply an extension of the body, rather than something users need to consciously be aware of.
Augmented Reality technology is developing at a rapid pace, and holds worlds of promise for the consumer market.
If the industry can focus on ergonomics, basic utility, vision correction, and field of view, AR glasses stand a better chance of making its way from being a niche “techie” device to potentially becoming the next smartphone.