XR Talks is a weekly series that features the best presentations and panel discussions from the XR universe. It includes embedded video, as well as narrative analysis and top takeaways.

One AR success factor beginning to emerge is to design for and solve human problems, rather than going “tech first.” This was a theme in last month’s ARtillry Intelligence Briefing. It was also a central message in Kopin CEO John Fan’s address at January’s ARIA conference (video below).

Because humans have evolved to stand upright, there’s a certain lateral and peripheral field of view that’s become central to our perception of the world. But tech evolution has gone in the opposite direction, giving us ubiquitous smartphones that lower our gaze to handheld hardware.

“The smartphone man no longer understands the physical world,” Fan said. “We have earbuds, but we can no longer hear the voice outside. We look down at the screen, and we have this digital world that’s wonderful, but the problem now is that we’ve lost the physical world.”

With that view, AR’s true fate is headworn. Of course mobile is where most AR activity rightly resides today, due to greater opportunity and scale. But as we’ve mentioned, mobile is a stepping stone in AR’s evolutionary path, and a training ground for a headworn endgame.

But the caveat according to Fan is that humans naturally don’t want to wear things on their heads. So there should be a big enough value exchange to counteract that resistance. We see examples of that value exchange in everything from safety goggles to fighter jet helmets.

“Humans by nature do not want to wear things on their head,” said Fan. “So, you have to encourage them to wear it on their head. And the next step is encouraging them to keep it on. So we must deliver value. People wear helmets because they protect and save lives.”

These are mostly enterprise examples but it’s an important lesson for consumer AR glasses, as they develop over the next decade from the likes of Intel and Apple. In fact that value exchange could be an even greater requirement for fickle and style-conscious consumer markets.

That presents design challenges for anything with decent specs (field of view, battery, brightness, etc.). And that’s precisely why AR glasses aren’t a thing yet in consumer markets. It will take a few cycles of Moore’s law to get to the right sweet spot of style and functionality.

Of course, most of the above is just the first in Fan’s 5 Rules for AR success. The rest are listed below and broken down further in his address. Human-first design is probably the most important one, and where he spends the most time. The rest of the list flows directly from there.

1. Humans First: Outlined above
2. Physical World First: Infuse graphical overlays sparingly. Don’t obscure the world.
3. Maintain Situational Awareness: Don’t block senses: the whole point is elevated awareness.
4. Voice is the New Touch: Voice is a natural human output so it should be a natural AR input.
5. Balance Design With Benefits: Find the optimal point on the sliding scale of form & function.

See the address below, coded to start at an optimal point for the meat of the presentation. And stay tuned for more educational videos that we’ll hand select and break down every week.

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Disclosure: ARtillry has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this post, nor received payment for its production. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.