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Welcome to Marxent’s (almost) annual predictions for the coming year. Find AR/VR trends from previous years here. Were we right? Were we wrong? Find out for yourself: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Trends 2020, AR/VR Trends from 2019Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Trends from 2017.

Will 2022 be the year AR and VR finally get real?

Ever since Pokemon Go captured our collective imagination in 2016, people have been waiting for the physical and virtual worlds to converge. Yet despite some promising augmented and virtual reality technologies over the past five years, these technologies are still seeking a mass-market consumer audience.

This year that began to change. The biggest news, of course, is Mark Zuckerberg’s full-body embrace of the metaverse — that magical playland where virtual people romp unencumbered by physical bodies in a limitless 3D space — including the renaming of his company to ‘Meta.’

But Facebook– err, Meta — is far from the only company working to make the metaverse a reality, notes Eric Abbruzzese, research director at ABI Research.

“If it were just Zuckerberg preaching on metaverse, it would be easier to write it off as a fad or big tech hype,” says Abbruzzese, who points out that Epic Games, Roblox, Niantic, Unity, NVIDIA, SKTelecom, Verizon, Alibaba, and many others are at varying stages of metaverse activity. “There’s significant tangible action and product.”

In 2021, consumer VR headsets started to sell in volume, led by the Oculus Quest 2, which sold more than 4 million units last year. At the same time, industrial uses of AR continued to evolve. For example, over the past year AR was used to help doctors perform hip-replacement surgery, farmers cultivate cannabis, and clinicians treat arachnophobia.

Next year those trends are likely to accelerate, thanks in part to investments from tech giants like Apple, the continuing need for remote work solutions, and the spread of enabling technologies like high-speed 5G wireless networks.

Will 2022 be the year AR, VR, and mixed reality finally go mainstream? Here are five reasons why they might.

1. New virtual reality headsets: VR is coming to a face near you

Just in time for the explosion of virtual worlds, the long-awaited AR/VR/XR headset for the masses may finally become a reality in 2022.

At last October’s Connect event, the company formerly known as Facebook teased its upcoming successor to the Oculus Quest 2, due out sometime next year. Project Cambria will be significantly more expensive than Quest but will offer an improved mixed reality experience, with more sophisticated face and eye-tracking and high-resolution full-color video.

Snap released its Spectacles 3 to developers last May, but has yet to announce when its fourth-generation AR headgear will be available to the general public; at this point, that’s looking like it will happen in 2022. Smaller players like China’s Nreal are already churning out lightweight mixed-reality glasses powered by smartphones, and more are expected.

But, as usual, all eyes remain fixed on Cupertino. Given the wealth of information already available about Apple’s as-yet-unacknowledged XR hardware, it’s mostly a question of when. Legendary Apple prognosticator Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted the company will release a mixed reality helmet in mid-2022, with a sleeker pair of AR glasses coming in 2025.

ABI Research is betting on 2023 becoming the year we all start living virtually.

“Simply put, as soon as Apple releases its mass-market AR smart glasses device, the market will take off,” says Abbruzzese.

2. WebXR: Democratizing the metaverse

A key barrier to mass adoption of AR and XR technologies is the lack of cross-platform standards. Until all headgear and virtual environments adopt a common technology, the metaverse will continue to be a series of walled gardens. This creates an opportunity for Web-based virtual environments to fill the gap, notes Linda Ricci, a technology strategist specializing in AR and VR.

“WebXR offers democratization of access, can reduce the digital divide, and become the training wheels to VR,” she notes. “Accessible via either a headset or a browser, WebXR enables anyone to jump into a VR experience or bring AR to their world via a URL — no apps required.”

This in turn will be attractive to brands that want an easy way to bring virtual experiences to life without a heavy investment in new technology.

“I believe we’ll see online stores with WebXR or fully immersive components launching in 2022,” Ricci adds. “The only real barrier to adoption is awareness, and that’s rapidly changing.”

3. Augmented Reality (AR) in cars: Driven from distraction

One day the future may be so bright we’ll need to wear XR shades. Until then, the way most humans will experience augmented reality over the next few years will likely be inside their cars.

Last April, Mercedes unveiled a sophisticated heads-up display inside its 2021 electric EQS sedan. In addition to projecting the vehicle’s speed and direction onto the windshield, the EQS’s AR HUD also displays the distance from the vehicle in front of you, alerts you if the car veers out of its lane and when you’re approaching an intersection, and signals when you’ve arrived at your destination. Audi, BMW, Kia, and several other carmakers plan to release similar AR tech in their 2022 models.

“Over the next two or three years you’re going to see elements of AR in heads-up displays from most automakers,” says Grant Feek, CEO of TRED, a peer-to-peer used car marketplace. “It will be how all that self-driving technology being built into cars communicates with humans, which will eventually help us trust the car to drive itself.”

4. Augmented industry: Taking the next leap

While consumer applications of AR and VR get all the buzz, industrial and enterprise uses will continue to bring home the bacon in 2022. ABI projects that enterprise adoption of AR will grow 66 percent per year through 2026, reaching a total market size of $175 billion. Immersive collaboration platforms like Virbela and VRtuoso, which got a boost from the need to enable remote work due to COVID-19, will continue to gain traction next year, says Abbruzzese, bringing the metaverse closer to the workplace.

After burning through $3 billion trying to invent a consumer-friendly XR device, Magic Leap has re-invented itself as an enterprise company and is planning to release a new industrial-strength headset sometime next year.

Cloud-native applications that handle processing and computing will enable the development of lighter devices with longer battery lives, notes Dijam Panigrahi, COO of GridRaster, a provider of cloud-based XR platforms for industry and the military. These will gain an additional boost as low-latency 5G connections become more widespread, bringing computing power closer to end-users, he adds.

“In 2022 we’ll see glasses that are more comfortable and easy to put on because you don’t have to worry about where the compute is coming from,” says Panigrahi. “That means more people will be introduced to AR and VR, primarily in the work environment.”

5. Buy here now: The rise of social + shopping

The try-before-you-buy revolution will rev up even more in 2022, powered largely by augmented reality (AR). Amazon, Home Depot, Sephora, and Warby Parker are just some of the brands that offer virtual try-ons at home via mobile apps. Interactive mirrors in stores like H&M and Ralph Lauren are helping consumers visualize purchases and get feedback from friends remotely before breaking out the plastic.

Augmented shopping is projected to grow nearly 50 percent per year through 2027, per Grandview Research. And little wonder. According to Shopify, digital interactions with products having 3D or AR content enjoy a 94 percent higher conversion rate.

“Retail is a promising vertical for early consumer AR activity, and we’ve seen the potential of that with numerous AR retail integrations for virtual try-on, cosmetics, furniture, and more,” says Abbruzzese. “Apple’s ongoing Shopify integration is another example of them being ready for an AR swell.”

And as AR apps go more mainstream, they will also get more social, notes Hunter Rice, founder of sendit, an AR app that integrates with Snapchat and allows people to share new selfie filters across social media.

“As all great technologies evolve, they inherently become more social,” says Rice. “In the next few years, we’ll start to see more products push the boundaries of social interactions within augmented reality. AR filters will be less of a novelty, and feel more like robust applications that have ongoing value.”

Marxent is the leading 3D services provider for home verticals trusted by global enterprise retailers including Macy’s, B&Q, and Lowe’s. With over a decade of experience, Marxent specializes in 3D, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality Solutions for furniture and home improvement. From WebAR OnDemand for configurable products to our newest 360° Panoramas, Marxent products powered by the 3D Cloud™ are the results-driven future of technology.

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