How long before AR truly arrives? By ‘truly’ we mean consumer smart glass ubiquity. Oculus’ Michael Abrash believes it won’t be until at least 2021, as do Shel Israel and Robert Scoble in their book The Fourth Transformation.  We agree.

Meanwhile, where are we today? A panel at the recent GamesBeat summit batted around this question and got to some useful insights along the way (full video below). For one, lots of the technology exists today… it’s just cost prohibitive for consumer production.

“If you look back at the early days of 3D when Castle Wolfenstein came out, it was horrible compared to what you could do on high end Silicon Graphics Machines,” said Niantic Labs’ Jon Hanke. “There was hardware out there that could do real hardware accelerated 3D, it’s just that nobody had it.”

ODG CEO Ralph Osterhout puts it in terms of cost and components. To get a small HD screen in front of both eyes in a set of glasses is expensive. And it needs to come down to around $200 to reach meaningful consumer accessibility and scale. And we’re far from that today.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he said. “Everybody wants to have a Ferrari. But the sheer fact of the matter is that if you’re driving a prius, you’re not going to be able to do everything that Ferrari can do.”

In the meantime, we’ll see the glasses opportunity mostly lie in the enterprise, where spending levels are higher than the consumer spending threshold. As for consumers, the near-term scalable and broadly applicable AR applications will lie with smartphones.

See the full video below.