Image: Leonardo, told by MIXED
I look forward to new AR and VR solutions in 2024 that solve lingering problems and expand the reach of XR to a wider audience.
Every new year brings advancements in technology, and there are a multitude of possibilities for XR in 2024. Maybe we’ll finally dispel the myth that VR is dead, and AR is perpetually ten years away.
Apple Vision Pro is coming soon
Apple is finally entering the VR category with its Vision Pro headset, which could launch as early as February 2024. The Mac and iPhone maker prefers to call its headset a spatial computer, setting expectations that the Vision Pro will be more like an iPad or a MacBook than a Meta Quest Pro or Varjo Aero.
At $3,500, the Vision Pro is a luxury headset that should be able to replace a high-performance laptop capable of gaming, casual computing, and serious work, but it seems unlikely that it will be a device you can use all day. The problem isn’t image quality or speed, which are impressive according to early hands-on reports, but rather comfort.
Apple constructed the Vision Pro out of aluminum and glass, with an inward-facing display and a body packed with cameras and sensors. Considering the size and weight, it can be difficult to get through an entire workday with such a hefty headset pressing into your face.
Apple will develop the concept of spatial computing and validate mixed reality and virtual reality as a worthy technology to consider for everyday use. It’s an important step for an industry that is mostly driven by games. However, a portable laptop must be light and comfortable enough for several hours of use every day. Vision Pro may fall short in this regard.
My vision of XR in the future
My long-term, futuristic vision for the XR is a wearable device that is completely unnoticeable until I reach for it. With a thought, this ideal device would enhance my senses and expand my possibilitiesreplaces the phone, smart watch, tablet, TV, computer and the countless accessories and cables that are currently necessary.
I should be able to seamlessly switch between an unobstructed view of my surroundings, to a heads-up display and full VR immersion. This future technology will provide gaming and entertainment, but also help my everyday life with news, weather and directions, as well as help me complete my work, no matter where I am.
It will take decades of technological advancement or a revolutionary new approach to make the dream come true. Meanwhile, the industry is moving in the right direction as AR and VR devices improve without adding weight, providing faster chips, better screens and more compelling mixed reality experiences over time.
Progress has been slow, but that is changing as technology reaches a critical threshold where small, low-power components have enough bandwidth and performance to create compelling, lightweight devices.
What’s coming in 2024
Vision Pro is important to Apple’s long-term plans and the industry’s growth, whether it succeeds or fails financially in 2024. It’s a milestone for Apple and an opportunity to shape expectations.
For most, the much more affordable Quest 3 will have a bigger impact on their lives. For gaming, look no further than this potent standalone VR headset. Pairing the Quest 3 with a high-performance PC or laptop will provide an experience similar to, but not quite equal to, Apple’s Vision Pro.
I want more than that. The current generation of smart glasses are light and comfortable enough for a couple of hours of use, and provide several large screens for my computer or phone, but the technology used obscures the view of my surroundings and limits the graphical field of view.
2024 may bring lightweight AR glasses and VR headsets that offer spatial computing solutions that are more acceptable and maybe even convincing enough to replace your laptop. You might expect Microsoft or Google to step forward, but both companies seem hesitant about how to proceed.
The future of Microsoft’s HoloLens is uncertain, and Windows Mixed Reality support will end in 2026. The Enterprise Edition of Google Glass is no longer available, and software development was halted in September. Its AR glasses project, which was teased at the end of Google IO 2022, has also reportedly ended.
VR headsets keep getting better and in some cases smaller. There is the option of another VR headset or a pair of smart glasses from Meta, but rumors are sparse at the moment. Apple and Meta added performance and mixed reality, but didn’t innovate in size or comfort. That leaves an opening for other manufacturers to fill the gap.
Samsung announced a partnership with Google and Qualcomm to create an XR headset and rumors suggest it could arrive in 2024, but we don’t have concrete details about this device.
The Immersed Visor stands out as a 2024 VR headset that looks like sports glasses and will reportedly weigh about the same as a phone. As a popular developer of virtual desktop apps, Immersed put long-term comfort, display quality and user interface at the top of the list when designing this wearable. In many ways, it sounds like an alternative to the Apple Vision Pro, with 4K screens, eye-tracking and a focus on spatial computing.
Shiftall launched its MeganeX PC VR headset in Japan but has not shared a timeline for expansion. This is another minimalist headset that is light enough to use headphones instead of a headband. However, the delayed release may hamper its ability to compete with more advanced solutions coming in 2024.
Meanwhile, Xreal, RayNeo, Rokid, and other smart glasses makers like Nimo Planet are adding low-power processors, XR apps, more sensors, and improved displays. These devices may not completely replace your phone or laptop, but you can expect to see smart glasses that are much more powerful and expensive in 2024. Greater spatial awareness will bring some AR capabilities to these next-generation smart glasses to justify the cost.
What I wish for XR 2024
If I had my way, XR would go in a slightly different direction in 2024. I wish Apple had scaled back its plans for the Vision Pro and led with a lightweight headset which featured head and hand tracking sensors, a 2.5K-per-eye display and high-quality passthrough. Processing can be transferred to an iPhone using ultra-broadband technology for fast wireless communication.
An iPhone can already handle impressive AR effects. HoloKit, a supercharged and updated headset similar to Google Cardboard, lets you use your iPhone Pro as a display with great clarity, high-resolution graphics, and spatial awareness via LiDAR.
Samsung is also in a great position to make a phone-powered XR headset, expanding the Dex to become a 3D desktop. Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 is quite powerful and the AR2 Gen 1 is specifically designed to share the processing load with a phone. However, rumors suggest that Samsung is focusing on a Vision Pro competitor.
A pair of AR glasses with a waveguide display can be thin and light with higher energy efficiency. Combine that with the photo, video and AI capabilities of Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses to make a potent hardware solution ready for the future.
There is no doubt that there are complications and product timelines that make cheap, lightweight AR glasses more difficult than I can imagine. But the usefulness of AR glasses that can act as a heads-up display for notifications, news, weather and directions, replace my TV and monitor, connect to a PC and act as a laptop if I pair Bluetooth accessories, would make such a device an instant hit.
That’s what I want in 2024, but I’ll be happy with an improved XR headset that can handle spatial computing.
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