common AR industry sentiment is that the smartphone will pave the way for smart glasses. Before AR glasses achieve consumer-friendly specs and price points, AR’s delivery system is the device we all have in our pockets. There, it can stimulate demand for AR experiences.
This thinking holds up, but a less-discussed product class could have a greater impact in priming consumers for AR glasses: wearables. Among other outcomes, AR glasses’ cultural barriers could be lessened by conditioning consumers to wearing sensors on their bodies.
Meanwhile, tech giants are motivated toward wearables. They ’re each building wearables strategies that support or future-proof their core businesses, where tens of billions in annual revenues are at stake. For example, Apple’s wearables offset iPhone sales declines.
But how will wearables continue to penetrate consumer markets and benefit AR glasses? This is the topic of a recent ARtillery Intelligence report, Wearables: Paving the Way for AR Glasses. The device class continues to grow and acclimate the world to AR glasses still to come.
Picking up where we left off last week, Apple is leading the way with wearables, which is partly to set the stage for its rumored AR glasses. But it isn’t alone. Following one of our favorite pastimes to follow the money, we can extrapolate the wearables directions of other tech giants.
This is all about triangulating product roadmaps based on tech giants’ financial motivations. They’re driven to future-proof their core businesses; or – like Apple – to diversify revenue in the face of maturing cash cows. That includes Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Snap and others.
Starting with Google, it acquired Fitbit to accelerate its lingering WearOS platform by having its own hardware. Its motivation, beyond wearables’ rising tide, is the same that drove its Android mobile OS: to maintain a mobile touchpoint with consumers to drive its search business.
Speaking of direct consumer touchpoints, Amazon blitzed the wearables market in 2019 as a delivery system for Alexa. Its Echo Buds are AirPod-like Bluetooth earpieces. And its Echo Frames are audio-enabled glasses, similar to the now-defunct Bose Frames.
Its motivation? When it failed to market the Fire Phone last decade, it lost a consumer touchpoint and ceded years of pole position to Google and Apple. It now sees wearables — along with smart speakers and other home devices — as a way to redeem that mistake for hardware’s next era.
The situation is similar with Microsoft. Its Windows Mobile OS licensing model lost share to Android’s more compelling price tag (free) last decade. It thus missed out on a coveted position in the mobile revolution, which it now wants to redeem with a vertically-integrated approach.
That can be seen in Surface laptops (a vessel for Windows and Office products), as well as Hololens. More recently, Microsoft exhibited this hardware-forward approach with its Surface Earbuds which have native integration with MS Office productivity functions like advancing presentation slides.
Meanwhile, Facebook wants to test the waters for AR glasses’ social dynamics with its Project Aria, which will test AR glasses’ social dynamics. Given the importance of AR Glasses on Facebook’s roadmap, it’s driven to gain insights in socially uncharted territory.
This also describes Snap Spectacles’ playbook. It will be a key player in the wearables race given its highly-engaged user base and product focus. It has zeroed in on an elegant UX with Spectacles 3, pursuant to feeling out and advancing consumer comfort levels for camera glasses.
And the trend stretches beyond these tech giants. Samsung has its own wearables play. And the strength of the category will attract commodity hardware players to fill gaps at the lower end of the market, as often happens, thus scaling up global access and adoption.
We’ll also see specialty players such as Bose. Though it shuttered the Bose AR platform, it still markets audio-enabled glasses. Bose will likely work first on user acclimation for simpler wearables before someday returning to intelligent and sensor-informed “audio AR”.
We’ll pause there and circle back in the next installment to examine how wearables are paving the way for AR glasses.