CONTRIBUTOR

Tech giant Meta, previously known as Facebook, has joined the augmented reality (AR) trade group AR Alliance, which is dedicated to accelerating development of AR eyewear applications.

The AR Alliance, which counts Microoled, EssilorLuxottica, Lochn and Corning among its members, fosters collaboration among companies of all sizes in advancing AR hardware development.

Through the alliance, diverse organizations worldwide work together to accelerate innovation, with Meta’s technology leadership in advancing AR, particularly through products like Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses, expected to play a central role.

The alliance also serves as a platform for harmonizing approaches and unifying the global AR supply chain advocating for advancement and facilitating open innovation.

Meta’s focus in augmented reality (AR) revolves around developing AR technology that enables users to interact with digital content overlaid on the real world.

The company sees AR as a transformative technology that has the potential to change how people connect, communicate and interact with their surroundings.

Bharath Rajagopalan, chair of the ARA, said the organization’s primary mission, is to help drive innovation in AR.

“We envision this realization in several ways. First is to develop and define standards and protocols for AR devices and products which can enable companies faster time-to-market with their products and service,” he explained.

The focus is on hardware, and the associated software and firmware around the hardware, which is fundamental to enabling augmented reality.

He notes the other aspect is to offer a platform to enable a community and an ecosystem where numerous companies of various sizes and varying technologies and solutions can come together, in a neutral environment, to advance this emerging market.

The group has created, and will continue to create, working groups to address standards and protocols that will enable devices and products to work together in a predictable and cohesive way so that developers can rapidly bring their concepts to market.

Aside from this core aspect, the alliance will also host webinars, seminars and other similar vehicles for companies (as well as research institutions and universities) to share and present concepts, approaches and solutions to advance the industry and the market.

“Additionally, the alliance works with organizations in adjacent technologies and markets to engage the broader market,” Rajagopalan added.

Although the focus of the alliance is on hardware, in the end the applications and use cases are what will determine the success of the AR market.

He said to that end, understanding how AR will used, what the driving applications are, and how users will interact in and with virtual environments had a fundamental impact on the design of the hardware platforms.

“Working with organization who are more focused on these aspects will strengthen the overall market and advance AR beyond just our member organizations,” Rajagopalan said. “To put it succinctly, we seek to encourage a holistic approach towards the development broadly and this is how we advocate for AR beyond hardware platforms.”

Meta is actively working on AR hardware, including smart glasses, that will seamlessly integrate digital experiences into everyday life. These AR glasses are expected to provide users with immersive experiences, such as overlaying digital information, communication and entertainment onto the physical world.

Additionally, Meta is investing in AR software and platforms to create AR applications and experiences that enhance productivity, creativity and social interaction.

“Meta is a technology leader, and in multiple domains, and with their success with the Ray-Ban smart glasses, and the deep market understanding they have, we believe they will be key to driving the alliance through focusing our activities on the definition of the standards and protocols to enable the market at large,” Rajagopalan said.

Rajagopalan said that being a neutral organization, the ARA advocates for its members as well as the AR market through engaging with regulatory organizations, policy makers and others as appropriate.

For example, from a regulatory perspective the organization is working with Underwriters Laboratory in giving industry inputs to the product testing and product safety standards they are developing.

Other boosters of the technology see applications for AR stretching from education to manufacturing, and a recent survey by Thrive Analytics found nearly a third (32%) of consumers have embraced mobile AR.

According to the 2023 report, 46% of mobile AR users engage with it on a weekly basis, while 74% do so monthly, which underscores the considerable potential of mobile AR.