Predictions for Augmented Reality in 2022

In this comprehensive post, Tony Vitillo casts a critical eye over the AR landscape and picks out the trends most likely to continue through 2022.

The problem in analyzing the “AR market” is that augmented reality currently means three different technologies:

Smartphone AR
Passthrough AR on VR headsets
AR glasses

and all these three are at a different status of adoption. While eventually all of three will converge into AR glasses in the long term (the evergreen “5 to 10 years“), at the moment they are three completely different things.

Smartphone-based AR is nowadays a commodity: everyone knows Pokemon Go, everyone uses AR filters on social media, everyone knows how to scan a QR code. I think that many people still don’t know that what they are using is called “augmented reality”, but everyone knows about “filters”, and everyone uses them. AR is already mainstream in this sense, and it has also already its creators economy, its marketplaces, its success stories. Snap and Meta keep reporting about millions of people using it. In 2022 we’ll just see it evolving, with new features added, and new types of filters being released.

Then there is passthrough AR, which is the new kid in town. This year for sure we’ll have two headsets of this kind launching: Lynx R-1 and Meta Project Cambria, with the elephant in town being the possible release of the first Apple headset. Hybrid VR/AR headsets with RGB passthrough will finally be possible thanks to the recent technology evolution, and they will serve to pave the way for future AR glasses, for which the technology has still to be fully developed. I can envision some VR developers starting creating hybrid AR/VR content, and some millions of headsets sold. And of course, if Apple releases something, it will create a tsunami in the whole ecosystem.

AR glasses are instead the moonshot and the technology upon which all the other ones will converge. The technology is not ready for the mass market yet, and what is available now and will be available in 2022 will mostly be targeted either at companies or at developers/content creators. Sales of these headsets will likely be below 1M units.

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