Is 2021 finally the year for smart glasses? Here’s why some experts still say no

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote handle at Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference on April 18, 2017 at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.

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Big expertise companies together with Apple, Alphabet’s Google and Microsoft have raced to create a pair of modern smart glasses readily embraced by customers, however 2021 is shaping as much as be yet one more year these devices fall in need of mass adoption.

With a launch of Facebook smart glasses as early as this summer time, expertise corporations are getting one step nearer, however widespread client curiosity is 5 to 10 years away, says Tuong Nguyen, a principal analyst at expertise consulting agency Gartner. And some tech CEOS agree. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel speculated it could be at the least 10 years earlier than customers extensively undertake smart glasses talking throughout the 2019 TechCrunch Disrupt convention in San Francisco.

A latest report from Gartner forecasts the wearable machine market will see vital development, however that features not solely smart glasses however watches and digital actuality headsets. Gadgets like the Apple Watch have already got been massive successes. Gartner forecasts wearables will attain $109 billion by 2024, with watches and digital actuality headsets for gaming rising by compounded annual development charges of 20% and 22%, respectively. 

For smart glasses, the lag in mass market adoption is a results of gradual progress on easy-to-use designs, modern appearances and easy-to-use content material, Nguyen stated. Many merchandise stay cumbersome, making it a tough promote for customers trying to keep modern on the go, whereas gradual connectivity points dissuade these wanting for effectivity. Companies even have but to work out powering kinks resembling whether or not its tethered to a pc or battery-powered.

But the newest iterations of smart glasses are exhibiting progress. Last week, Vuzix premiered a fashion-forward product at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show anticipated to hit the market this summer time and that can characteristic audio system, noise-canceling microphones and supply choices supporting WiFi and information.

New Vuzix smart glasses priced at $1,000 are anticipated to hit the market in mid-2021 and can mark the firm’s first foray into the client finish of what has been an enterprise market for this rising area of interest of wearables.


The Rochester-headquartered firm, which has lengthy created smart glasses merchandise for enterprise shoppers, is making its first main foray into the client market. In 2015, Intel Corp. invested almost $25 million for a 30% stake in the firm.

Lenovo launched its ThinkReality A3 smart glasses at CES, which tether to a PC and some Motorola gadgets. These smart glasses permit customers to venture a number of digital screens directly and include an added speaker and microphone for interacting with friends or coworkers.

There’s additionally a variety of on a regular basis advantages to this product area of interest which proceed to multiply because it develops. Smart glasses can be utilized for digital buying, determining what furnishings matches into houses, and will at some point change screens solely, stated Rick Kowalski, director of trade evaluation and enterprise intelligence at the Consumer Technology Association.

For years, IKEA has toyed with utilizing the Microsoft’s HoloLens to permit clients to plan out a kitchen, toilet or room redesign, whereas Lowe’s applied a pilot program in a number of shops in 2016. “The value that they bring is so far beyond what they can think of right now,” Kowalski stated. 

A difficult historical past

Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2


Despite a gradual integration into the client market, Covid-19 and the rise in distant work may speed up smart glasses integration in well being, medical and repair fields. Vuzix lately introduced they might associate with a medical expertise firm to help with distant servicing throughout the pandemic.

Microsoft can also be placing smart glasses to make use of in the protection sector. First out there to customers in 2019, the HoloLens glasses can overlay photos and show laptop applications. In 2019, the firm received a $479 million contract to deploy 100,000 prototypes to the U.S. navy hoping to enhance soldier effectiveness, a transfer which got here underneath harsh worker criticism.

The resolution precipitated some considerations amongst staff who throughout the tech sectors have been extra vocal in recent times as activists questioning some makes use of of their very own expertise. But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella later defended the resolution in an interview with CNN Business, citing that the firm wouldn’t “withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy.”

In 2016, Snap made its foray into the smart glasses market with Spectacles, a wearable product that allowed customers to file movies to sync with their telephones. But by 2017, a number of media retailers reported that the creator of Snapchat largely overestimated demand and lower than half of patrons continued utilizing the product inside a month of buy, inner firm information obtained by Business Insider urged. Though largely unsuccessful amongst customers, the most up-to-date iteration gives 3-D capabilities and retails for $380, a fraction of the worth of its opponents.

An individual holds up a pair of Snapchat Spectacles by Snap Inc. on the flooring of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) throughout the firm’s preliminary public providing (IPO) in New York, March 2, 2017.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The worth level for most smart glasses is still excessive, with many fashions upwards of $2,500. The new Vuzix glasses are anticipated to retail for $1,000; Lenovo has not but detailed pricing on its ThinkReality A3 smart glasses. Offering consumer-friendly pricing for the merchandise is one approach to speed up the rollout, however corporations additionally want to make sure smart glasses are accompanied by easy-to-use apps and libraries of content material that maintain customers occupied.

Without these huge content material libraries launched in tandem with smart-glasses, customers are much less prone to materialize the advantages of the product, stated Allan Cook, a managing associate at Deloitte main the digital actuality follow.

“People think it’s weird to be wearing AR or smart glasses,” he stated. “There’s been blocks to the market in the past, but in 2021 we are going to see some dramatic increase.”

Some experts thought 2020 could be “the year” of headsets on account of the pandemic but it surely wasn’t, and once more in 2021, whereas there might be development it will likely be off a low base and extra of it persevering with in the enterprise market, in response to a Deloitte evaluation. Overall spending on AR and VR headsets, software program, and providers, together with purchases by customers, rose in 2020 to $12 billion globally, which was up 50% from 2019, however under the pre-pandemic forecast of just about 80% development. With the pandemic accelerating the alternative to reveal their worth, digital actuality headsets could proceed to achieve floor after the pandemic ends on account of quite a lot of different advantages, resembling decrease price, larger security, and higher studying retention, however these advantages still present extra enchantment to and adoption amongst enterprise shoppers quite than customers, in response to the Deloitte outlook.

Big Tech’s imaginative and prescient of the future

As expertise corporations push for larger client adoption, a number of tech giants past Google and Microsoft have introduced plans for their very own smart glass creations anticipated to hit the market in the subsequent few years.

Facebook plans to launch its smart glasses created with Luxottica‘s Ray-Ban. The social media big is banking on the standard sun shades model style-sense to supply a fashion-forward mannequin that can enchantment to skeptical clients. In 2019, CNBC additionally beforehand reported that the firm was working on an accompanying synthetic intelligence voice assistant to rival Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

“I can’t go into full product details yet, but they’re really the next step on the road to augmented reality glasses,” stated CEO Mark Zuckerberg throughout a September livestream from Facebook Connect, the place the firm yearly showcases digital actuality merchandise.

Simultaneously, the firm is engaged on Project Aria, an initiative that can distribute gadgets to staff to build up video, audio and placement information, and finally assist the firm analysis and develop its smart glasses. Facebook first introduced its Luxottica partnership in 2019.

Apple is reportedly working by itself AR glasses that might permit customers to view maps, textual content messages and management Siri, anticipated to hit the market by 2023 at the earliest. Development on the product is shrouded in secrecy — like all of Apple’s R&D, which the firm by no means offers touch upon. An augmented and digital actuality headset much like Facebook’s Oculus Rift can also be reportedly in the works.

Wall Street is anxious for an Apple unveil, with Wedbush analyst Dan Ives placing Apple Glasses on his 2021 want checklist and making a prediction that the firm’s first augmented actuality eyewear — the results of a few years of growth in the labs of Cupertino — might be launched at the firm’s WWDC 2021 builders convention, anticipated to be held in June.

Amazon has not introduced plans for a full-scale augmented actuality competitor, but it surely at the moment gives the Echo Frames, a pair of glasses enhanced with a speaker and built-in Amazon voice assistant.  

Jio, an India-based expertise firm that is backed by each Google and Facebook, introduced Jio Glass final year, a combined actuality headset that connects to the web by a cable linked to a smartphone. Although the firm, a part of India’s largest conglomerate Reliance Industries, has but to announce a worth level, they’ve hinted that the product works with greater than 25 purposes and may gain advantage distant work and faculty.

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