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Is there any hope for the smart glasses market?

The flailing consumer smart glasses market might get a breath of life over the next couple of years, with new figures from Juniper Research forecasting shipments will reach more than 12 million in 2020. 

The research firm is predicting the majority of growth to occur after 2017, compared to less than million devices shipped in 2016 from a variety of vendors.  

Juniper Research says the withdrawal of Google Glass in 2015 has led the current market to be 15 months behind previous expectations. However, it says the market will be reinvigorated by 2017 as the HoloLens becomes generally available, and other devices from vendors like ODG, Sony, Meta and potentially Magic Leap move beyond developer-only devices and into general availability.

The new projections in Consumer & Enterprise Smart Glasses: Opportunities & Forecasts 2016-2020, detail how smart glasses already provide a range of niche consumer use cases, like the Recon Jet’s cyclist and athletics focus, as well as providing strong benefits across many workplaces.

However, uncertainty around how the devices would be used by consumers has held back the market’s development.

Over-hyped, Misapplied Consumer Wonders
While Google Glass encouraged smart glasses users to take their devices everywhere, Juniper believes that the key to the consumer smart glasses segment will be found in home-based use cases, in much the same way that consumer tablets are primarily used indoors, rather than taken everywhere. 

“This was a key part of the Atheer One’s appeal in 2014, but when that device got shelved, so did the advent of successful consumer smart glasses,” the company says.

Under the Radar, Productive Enterprise Tools
While an appealing consumer smart glasses product has yet to be launched, Juniper says the benefits of smart glasses are now being realised in many workplaces, with vendors like Vuzix, Atheer and even Google focusing on enterprise use.

“Hands-free computing and video transmission can be a huge productivity booster in many workplaces now, while it’s not a huge draw for consumers,” explains research author James Moar. 

“It will take the development of devices that give unique vision-based capabilities, that can’t be replicated by a smartphone, for a truly worthwhile consumer use case for smart glasses to emerge,” he says.

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