Nearly all major technology players are pinning their hopes on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Barely noticed by many before the metaverse hype, expectations are now boiling over for new experiences, use cases and business models. AR glasses in particular, which can embed virtual elements in the real world, are a promising future trend. What is often not considered is how people actually react to them. In a recent study (data as of April 2023), we explore this question. Specifically, we are interested in three questions:
- What do people think about AR glasses?
- Which brands do people have confidence in to successfully bring AR glasses to the market?
AR headsets: Confidence in Apple and other established brands
We asked respondents whether they could imagine brands being able to successfully launch such AR glasses – regardless of whether they would use such a wearable device themselves or not. In this way, we are ultimately measuring a kind of perceived AR hardware competence. The percentages only refer to people who are aware of the brands, i.e. a brand like Google with almost 100% awareness was rated by more people than a less known brand like HTC.
Samsung (92%) and Apple (90%) top the list, followed by Microsoft (87%), Google (85%) and Sony (84%). The high level of trust in Apple and Samsung can be explained by the fact that these companies are already seen as reliable partners for smartphones and other technologies – such as smartwatches, headphones, tablets, etc. – and that they are trusted by consumers. – and are trusted by consumers. People’s trust in these brands also extends to concepts that still seem very futuristic to most – in this case, smart glasses.
Interestingly, Meta Inc, the company that has been a leader in VR glasses since it bought Oculus and is also investing heavily in AR development, is only in the middle of the pack (52%). According to a Reuters note from last year, Meta is actually investing more in AR than VR. Competitor HTC is rated similarly (48%). The average consumer may not be aware of these activities and successes yet.
Snap Inc., which already has experience with AR and wearables, brings up the rear. These results are surprising, as Snap Inc. has already seen success with its popular Lenses, camera glasses, and beta-stage AR glasses.
For interpretation, we recommend looking at the differences between the brands and not necessarily (only) the respective percentages. Note, these numbers are no forecasts!
Skepticism about AR glasses
One in seven respondents (14%) can already imagine using AR glasses in everyday life. However, skepticism is also high: 38% of respondents reject the possibility of using AR glasses in whole or in part. Men (17%) are more open to AR glasses than women (11%). This does not mean that only 14% of Germans will ever buy such glasses – nor that the 38% will never be reached. The results simply show that one in seven would be willing to do so now in principle, and more than one in three (still) have reservations. But if many people are open to something like this, it could lead to a positive discussion about the technologies in their personal networks (and thus, generate buzz, interest, social norms etc.).
But what are the reasons for this reluctance?
These reasons were not examined in detail in the current study. However, we do know some reasons from previous studies (see further literature) in the consumer area, such as:
- Availability – With the exception of the nreal light, there are virtually no glasses that are targeted at end users. And even the nreal light is far from consumer ready.
- Lack of knowledge about the technology and its benefits (functional, hedonic, social, etc.).
- Privacy, especially that of others
- Perceived health risks (physical and psychological)
- Ergonomics and design, or the fact of wearing glasses at all
- Fear of other people’s reactions
- Price, availability, and social norms
- Social and ethical concerns, general technology skepticism
A look into the future: Apple and the road to the metaverse?
A possible highlight for the emerging XR market could come in early June at the WWDC 2023 developer conference, when Apple may unveil a new pair of glasses. For years, we have been watching Apple’s activities – especially its patent and company acquisitions.
There are a lot of rumors about XR glasses that can do both AR and VR. At its core, this is a “VR” device, but it is said to have a so-called “pass-through mode” using front cameras – this is discussed under the terms XR glasses or “mixed reality glasses” (a term we find rather unfortunate here, see LINK). This means that the live stream from the cameras is enriched with artificial content in real time. Other devices, such as the Microsoft Hololens glasses, are optical see-through displays. Simply put, these are transparent displays. Only the virtual elements are displayed, everything from the immediate environment is projected “analog to the eye”. However, these displays are much more complex and still have some disadvantages (e.g. smaller field of view, poorer contrast values, etc.).
We surveyed more than 500 people between the ages of 18 and 87 using a professional online access panel in April 2023. Men and women are almost equally represented. We conducted the survey as part of our work at the Universität der Bundeswehr München and asked about various topics related to AR. The results listed here are only a subset.
It is important to keep in mind that this is a snapshot in time. When interpreting the percentages, it is especially important to keep in mind the comparisons between brands.
Rauschnabel, P. A., Felix, R., Hinsch, C., Shahab, H., & Alt, F. (2022). What is XR? Towards a framework for augmented and virtual reality. Computers in Human Behavior, 133, 107289.
Rauschnabel, P. A. (2018). Virtually enhancing the real world with holograms: An exploration of expected gratifications of using augmented reality smart glasses. Psychology & Marketing, 35(8), 557-572.
Rauschnabel, P. A., He, J., & Ro, Y. K. (2018). Antecedents to the adoption of augmented reality smart glasses: A closer look at privacy risks. Journal of Business Research, 92, 374-384.