Augmented reality (AR) is a technology most consumers are exposed to every day, though most of them aren't aware of it. Popular apps like Snapchat and Instagram use AR to display creative filters and animations placed over user-generated content. The breakout success of PokemonGo had users gathering in public spaces without realizing they were using the latest innovation in AR for mobile.

As entrepreneurs and business leaders, it's key for us to recognize the trends to either build companies around new tech or incorporate any new tech into our existing models. 

Some things to know beforehand though, AR isn't just for entertainment -- it is being used for much more practical applications across multiple industries. For example, Ikea's new Place app allows do-it-yourself homeowners to visualize the inside of their home with brand new furnishing.

The app overlays the new style on top of an existing room, allowing them an in-house view of what they want to buy. Lenovo is another brand pioneering AR for smartphones, recently releasing a companion headset to help users play their new suite of games. All of these use cases are fueling the AR/VR fire, an industry which has more than doubled its revenue since 2016 and is projected to grow more than ten times that amount by 2020 with lots of promise.

Here are three key trends to follow to know when AR will snowball into the mainstream: 

Improving Ergonomics

While smartphone AR applications are exciting for gamers and early adopters, they are not the pinnacle of the new technology. Wearable AR -- specifically smartglasses -- have given the best tech minds an entirely new frontier to develop on. An early entrant in this space, Google Glass, floundered due to a lack of practical uses. Newer adaptations of this technology, however, have been merging the latest in wearable AR with more functional uses, which may be the tipping point for localized and industry-specific adoption.

Technology continues to become smaller, more form-fitting, and tuned to human sensory faculties. Initial versions of smart glasses failed to seamlessly integrate with human activity, which made them less appealing for both personal and business applications.

Clifford Gross, Ph.D., CEO of Lucyd, an AR and smart glasses company, offered me his input on why ergonomics is holding back AR: "There are already a plethora of AR apps for smartphones and tablets. But for wearable AR to really go mainstream, it has to be easy-to-use -- displaying information that is coplanar with your line of sight."

Size was the first ergonomic challenge that information technology had to overcome, but smartphones with competitive processing units fit in our pockets and laptops that are paper-thin show how well the industry has tackled the issue.

Big names in tech are in concurrence that ergonomics need to be put first in order to make AR a reality. Tim Cook shared with The Independent, "I can tell you the technology itself doesn't exist to do [AR] in a quality way. The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face--there's huge challenges with that."

Opening Field of View

Smart glasses may be the next wave of condensed, ergonomic smart devices; helping users stop looking down at their phones and start looking up at the world around them. Much like the smartphone unbound users from their computers, and smartwatches from their phones, AR-driven glasses may eliminate the physical necessity of managing any other device.

Now that there are clearer applications for smart glasses, the industry needs to make them more seamlessly integrated with the user's day to day functions. This will help break down any barriers to adoption. 

Gross said, "AR needs to enhance the visual experience -- they need to be something a person can put on and wear for, if not the entire day, at least a good majority of the day. AR glasses also need to be able to incorporate corrective lenses to ensure user comfort and personal style preferences."

Gross shared that for most smart glasses on the market, the average field-of-view limit is around 45-50 degrees. That is less than half of the 120-degree field-of-view of the human eyes. Obstruction of vision is one of the biggest inhibitors of smart glasses that prevents them from outpacing other AR-enabled smart devices.

Human Centered Design

The current housing units on smart glasses are another subpar design aspect. The fact is, looks matter to consumers.

Snapchat's recent failure in the camera glasses space is a prime example of how much consumers demand customized options. Corrective lenses also need to be incorporated into smart glasses for them to be used by the 75 percent of the population of American consumers that wear corrective lenses.

The Reality of AR

Smart glasses can be a mainstream product by as early as next year. Apple's manufacturing partner Quanta has expressed that they are working on devices for the AR space that will be available no later than 2019. 

As entrepreneurs and business leaders, these are the important factors to follow that will give AR the tipping point it needs to be mainstream so that we can leverage and harness the technology for our businesses. Follow closely. 

Published on: Jan 31, 2018