Augmented and virtual reality headsets have been touted as the next big thing for years now. But when are we actually going to see people wearing these devices out in public regularly?
The technology still seems stuck in niche spaces, but mainstream adoption could be coming sooner than we think.
Obviously, early attempts like Google Glass didn't take off. Let's face it - no one wants to walk around with some clunky tech accessory on their face unless it's providing an amazing and effortless experience. And Glass simply wasn't there yet, on top of valid concerns about privacy and social acceptance.
But the landscape has changed a lot since then. For one, the hardware is getting much better looking. Apple's new Vision Pro headset suggests sleek and subtle designs are possible for AR/VR. And Meta's Ray-Ban Stories shows you can integrate the tech seamlessly into fashionable glasses.
As the gadget factor diminishes, public usage may feel more realistic to everyday people.
The capabilities are improving rapidly too. Apple will likely achieve new performance milestones that blow existing headsets out of the water. And you can't count Apple out when it comes to getting emerging technologies into the mainstream, with thousands of retail outlets worldwide, distribution is key.
Google and Samsung are collaborating on VR designs prioritizing portability and wearability too - key factors for use in public public spaces.
There are still challenges to solve around things like battery life, field of view limitations, and transparency of lenses. But with tech giants now pouring money into AR/VR, it feels like just a matter of time and resources before these technical hurdles are cleared.
And the pandemic may have lit a fire under developers too. Virtual communication and collaboration tools saw explosive interest during lockdowns. That real-world validation could finally tip things toward mass-market viability.
If I had to guess, I'd say we'll hit an inflection point in the next 3-5 years where AR/VR adoption starts snowballing. And by 2030, we may start seeing these headsets as commonly as we see smartphones today.
The momentum in the space feels unstoppable right now. Soon we won't be walking into lamposts as we wont be looking down at the floor or phone.
Think about that!