Consumer-Grade AR Glass (Smart Glass): The Next Generation of Computing Devices

From business to personal use

In May 2014, Google released the Google Glass Explorer edition to the consumer market. Since then, a range of new products have been introduced, of which eyewear for business is the mainstream.

However, in recent years, the demand for consumer AR glasses has increased, especially after the sudden rise of the metaverse concept in 2021. From the figure below, we can see that Chinese companies have launched several smart glasses general public after 2021.

Compared to AR glasses used in industries, smart glasses require larger fields of view (FOV), lighter weight, clearer image and longer battery life for consumer use. In 2021, the global market size of smart AR glass market was USD 5.1 billion.

By region, North America led the smart glass market in 2021 by holding a revenue share of more than 32.0%, and regional companies are launching products in line with consumer demands. Additionally, Asia-Pacific is expected to register the highest CAGR of over 12.0% through 2030.

The connected glasses market is a potential market with few competitors

Different types of AR glasses have different technical specifications as they are designed for different purposes, but generally incorporate wireless technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS, a camera and any number of sensors (eg gyroscope, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, etc.) .

Devices can either be attached to a desktop computer or smaller device, or standalone, which is a compromise between computing power and the device’s intrusiveness, fashionability and social acceptability. Typically, tethered devices are relatively large binocular AR headsets with large FOVs, while untethered devices are relatively small smart glasses with smaller FOVs and therefore limited AR usage and fewer sensors.

According to “Trends in Smart Glasses 2016” by the Synoptic Foundation, the products in the smart glass market are classified into three categories: connected glasses, smart glasses and Head Mounted Devices (HMD).

Types of AR glasses

l Connected glasses: screenless glasses with Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity.

l Smart Glasses: Smart Glasses can be divided into two groups based on their displays: rear view mirror and monocular smart glasses. Mirror glasses have a display discreetly positioned at the edge of the wearer’s field of vision (and therefore function like a car’s rearview mirror). Monocular smart glasses have an optical engine positioned in front of one of the wearer’s eyes, allowing the wearer to see reality through the screen while projecting digital information directly into the field of view.

l AR HMD: Headsets with binocular transparent screens with a relatively large FOV (eg 90° for the Meta 2) that can provide true AR and generally have bulkier optics than regular smart glasses.

The industry has widely adopted AR HMD headsets for multiple tasks, usually in the same price range as smartphones. Products from big players like Meta, Microsoft, Magic Leap, and Google are mostly industrial-grade AR glasses. However, there are also more ambitious smart glasses, such as the Rokid Air and Nreal Air, which offer heads-up displays using AR technology.

There are a total of 422 participants in the smart AR glasses market, among which only 74 companies are competitive, according to StrategyR. Most participants focus on the North American smart glass market, which is valued at USD 1.6 billion in 2021 with a CAGR of 9.2%.

The AR Glasses Material Cost Invoice

A Bill of Materials (BOM) is a list of raw materials, subassemblies, intermediate assemblies, subcomponents, parts, and quantities of each needed to manufacture a final product. For AR glasses, its BOM mainly includes display and optical module, CPU/GPU, sensor, camera, audio module, cell, manufacturing cost and frame.

Based on modules with different functions, we have divided the composition of AR glasses into calculation, display and processing modules. The computing module is a system-on-chip (SoC) that provides computing power to support data calculation, 3D modeling, rendering, and image recognition of the device.

The development of the chip allows AR glasses to be lighter and consume less power. At the same time, sensors, cameras and audio modules work together to capture real-world information and transfer it into a virtual version that overlaps with the real world on the AR glasses.

Among all the modules of the AR glasses, the optical module is the most important, consisting of optical lenses and micro-screens, and directly affects the image quality. According to our research, the main BOM costs of AR glasses are optical modules and chips. The cost of optical modules, the core of the AR BOM, accounts for 30%-50% of the total cost of AR glasses, while the cost of APU and cells accounts for 30%-40% of the cost total.

Whether AR glasses are suitable for consumers and workers depends on choosing the right modules. A computing module, a SoC, provides AR input, virtual and real fusion for output computing power support, supports machine vision and interactive technology. To collect surrounding information in the real world, the camera has become the main sensor of the AR glasses processing module; typically, AR glasses use multiple cameras and SLAM technology to model the real environment in virtual form.

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The next generation of computing devices

Why are more and more start-ups striving so hard to enter the consumer-grade AR glass market? The global consumer mobile AR application market revenue reached USD 10,598 million in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 15,497 million in 2022. However, smartphone is no longer the best device to show users AR content because of the metaverse concept. To experience the metaverse, one must be completely immersed in virtual information, which means one needs a device to display the surrounding virtual details throughout the day. Therefore, the ultimate form of consumer AR glasses is a portal for people to wear them as part of their bodily organs.

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Over 810 million active AR mobile devices worldwide are expected to reach 1.73 billion by 2024. As a result, the market for AR devices is potentially large and it will only take a few years for AR glasses to dominate.

There were only 570,000 AR headsets shipped in 2021, among which the amount of AR glasses for business is more than that for consumers. However, according to the AR Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), the quantity of AR glasses will reach the crossover point in 2027, and consumer-grade AR glasses shipped will exceed enterprise-grade ones thereafter.

Rise of AR device users and popularity of metaverse drive the sale of AR smart glasses; more sales bring more breakthroughs. In the history of computing devices, from abacus to smartphones, human inclination has gradually shifted towards devices with portable, portable and virtual functionality. So far, the smart glass market looks promising with increasing sales and users; Accordingly, the AR glasses company will pay more attention to the R&D of consumer-grade AR glasses in the next 3-5 years.

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