Wearables: How are they conditioning consumers for AR’s face-worn era

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Hearables Unit Sales

Executive Summary

A common AR industry sentiment is that the smartphone is the device that will pave the way for smart glasses. The thought is that before AR glasses achieve consumer-friendly specs and price points, AR’s delivery system is the device we all have in our pockets. There, it can seed user demand for AR and get developers to start thinking spatially.

This thinking holds up, but a less-discussed product class could have a greater impact in priming consumer markets for AR glasses: wearables. As we examined in last year’s “audio AR” report 2 , AR glasses’ cultural barriers could be lessened by conditioning consumers to wearing sensors on their bodies.

Meanwhile, tech giants are motivated toward wearables in varied ways. Like in our ongoing “follow the money” exercise, they’re each building wearables strategies that support or future-proof their core businesses, where tens of billions in annual revenues are at stake.

No one embodies this principle more than Apple. The company continues to double down on Watch and AirPods as they offset iPhone revenue deceleration in the near term; and future-proof the company’s hardware-heavy profit machine in the long term.

In fact, Watch and AirPods could eventually converge with glasses in a holistic suite that augments reality from several angles. This could replace (or augment) the current suite of iThings. This outlook fits the profile for Apple’s signature multi-device ecosystem approach.

The story is similar with Google in that its wearables ambitions are to create an additional touchpoint for Google-delivered content (and ads). This likewise “fits the profile” as the same rationale drove Google to invest in the Android operating system many years ago.

And the list goes on: Amazon launched its Echo Frames and other wearables to create a more direct touchpoint to shoppers… and thus stimulate more frequent and bigger shopping baskets. Microsoft meanwhile has launched Office-centric earbuds to further its mission to enable enterprise productivity.

And of course, there’s Snap, with its famous Spectacles. Though the headlines have been more about the device’s commercial performance, the more important story is the device’s true mission to feel out cultural and social sensitivities for face-worn sensors. Facebook will do similar with its Project Aria, announced last month at Facebook Connect 7.

Though there are strong motivations in all of the above moves, wearables and “hearables” aren’t for everyone. The much-vaunted Bose AR platform – delivered through the flagship Bose Frames – retracted from the market (for now). What signals or warning signs should we take from this retreat?

While we’re asking questions, will wearables fulfill the above-stated goal to acclimate the world to face-worn sensors? And if so, will this pave the way for AR glasses? In this report, we embark on a data-driven narrative to answer these questions and others. The goal as always is to empower you with a spatially-smart position.

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Methodology

This report highlights ARtillery’s Intelligence viewpoints, gathered from its daily in-depth coverage of the XR sector. To support the narrative, data are cited throughout the report. These include ARtillery Intelligence original data, as well as that of third parties. Data sources are attributed in each case.

For market sizing and forecasting, ARtillery Intelligence follows disciplined best practices, developed and reinforced through its principles’ 15 years in tech sector research and intelligence. This includes the past 4 years covering AR & VR exclusively, as seen in research reports and daily reporting.

Furthermore, devising these figures involves the “bottom-up” market-sizing methodology, which involves granular ad revenue dynamics such as campaign pricing and spending. More about ARtillery Intelligence methodology can be seen here, and market-sizing credentials can be seen here.

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The fastest and most cost-efficient way to get access to this report is by subscribing to ARtillery PRO. You can also purchase it a la carte by contacting us.

Disclosure & Ethics Statement

ARtillery Intelligence has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this report, nor received payment for its production. With respect to market sizing, ARtillery Intelligence remains independent of players and practitioners in the sectors it covers, thus mitigating bias in industry revenue calculations and projections. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen in full here.

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