Foresight 09: How AR eyewear could succeed the smartphone

A bi-weekly newsletter diving into the concepts, people and brands shaping the future of retail and entertainment.


Welcome back to Foresight!

I’m really, really excited about AR eyewear. After watching Adobe’s concept video of life with AR glasses, I now envision waking up in the morning followed by putting on my AR glasses and walking towards a fresh espresso waiting for me thanks to the power of an app connecting my Nespresso and glasses. There’s so much innovation in this space with every major tech company working on their own version—a strong indication of where things are going.

Another area of the future I’m deeply passionate about is environmental responsibility. The beauty industry is responsible for an estimated 120 billion units of plastic packaging each year, with only 9% of plastic waste ever produced being recycled. This is an issue that desperately needs addressing. Carbois, who specializes in enzymatic technology, is working on an infinitely recyclable bottle with L’Oréal to tackle this. I’m looking forward to a time where I can either refill every personal care product I use or recycle knowing the packaging is part of a circular system.

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IDEAS, INSIGHTS & FORWARD THINKING PERSPECTIVES

How AR eyewear could assume the smartphones throne

With software and hardware finally making headway, AR glasses could have a constant presence in our lives in the future. Although no where close to how consumers carry AirPods everywhere they go, they can “overcome the smartphone’s greatest limitation—its limited screen size—and turn the world into not only an infinitely large display, but a contextually relevant one.” The challenge for companies venturing to bring extended reality to our everyday lives, is how to surpass the desire of a product such as Varjo’s XR-3 headset, into the form of a consumer-friendly product such as eyeglasses.

Apple, Google and Facebook are all deeply invested in AR and are working to develop new forms of AR glasses. Considering how all in Snap is on AR, it’s no surprise they’re also a player in the space, recently launching their fourth generation of AR eyewear called Spectacles. There have been previous camera glasses launched by Snap, but these are the first AR glasses and are considered a radical departure from what’s been done before. The Spectacles project virtual images into the world directly in front of the wearer with the help of waveguide technology and include built-in cameras to capture the peripheral world, built-in mics for voice control, stereo speakers for spatial audio, and a touchpad on the right temple for navigating app interfaces. If it wasn’t obvious already, clearly weight is a major trade-off as they’re packed with tech. Given Snap’s focus on AR is around creativity, the Spectacles are not for sale just yet. Instead, the company will give out thousands of glasses to AR creators and artists to create experiences for the product. Snap users love AR filters with usage up 40% in the first quarter of this year, so naturally, extended reality glasses are a way of very literally, extending that reach.

Back here in present day, there’s a lot more progress to be made before the product and consumer are ready to adopt AR eyewear, which also explains why Snap’s Spectacles aren’t available for purchase yet. Without a strong use case other than entertainment, it’s difficult for consumers to see the potential of their investment. To launch with content and services, the mass market would be much more willing to spend, which is exactly why giving the product to creators at first, is a smart move. There’s also the argument of connectivity and battery life. Spectacles currently need a smartphone for connectivity to 5G and the battery only lasts 30 minutes. Lastly, waveguide technology is essential for AR glasses as it shrinks the hardware and gives consumers an exceptional experience. It’s still very much a work in progress and remains one of the key barriers that stand in the way of AR glasses being consumer-ready. It’s predicted that mass market adoption could happen in as soon as five years and although Snap’s Spectacles and Facebook’s upcoming collaboration with Ray-Ban don’t offer the true AR experience, it’s a sign of where things are headed. I mentioned this when speaking about the metaverse previously and need to say it again based on it’s relevancy here—very much like how social media changed how brands market and speak to consumers, AR will significantly change how consumers interact with products online and in a retail setting.

Creating responsible beauty packaging with enzymatic technology

Paving the way for the beauty industry, L’Oréal has partnered with biotech solutions provider Carbios—a French company pioneering bio-industrial solutions to redefine the lifecycle of PET plastics, to create an “infinitely recyclable” bottle. Using enzymatic technology, any kind of PET plastic (regardless of colour or complexity) can be broken down into its building blocks, which can then be turned back into like-new, virgin-quality plastic. Enzymatic recycling addresses the issue of PET plastics that would otherwise go to waste or be incinerated and brings materials back into a continuous circular system of recycling. This can all be done at high speed— breaking down 97% of plastic in 16 hours which is 10,000 times more efficient than any biological plastic recycling trial to date and creates a lower carbon footprint due to the mild conditions the process works under.

While production is still a few years away, with a planned launch date of 2025, L’Oréal’s Biotherm brand will be the first to adopt the new bottles. Putting the pressure on other cosmetics giants to up their environmental credentials, partnerships with companies across industries that offer solutions in circularity and carbon emissions is a key component to achieving benchmark goals that major players have committed to.


WHAT I’M READING

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