Why Augmented Reality (Not VR) Is Likely the Future

It's an enhanced view of the real world

Key Takeaways

  • Augmented reality headsets could soon overtake virtual reality only gear. 
  • Oppo recently announced an augmented reality device that’ll go on sale early next year. 
  • Google and Apple are also rumored to be working on their own versions of AR headsets. 
Person using AR glasses in an office in front of a laptop

AzmanL / Getty Images

Virtual reality is getting a lot of attention at the moment, but experts say that an upcoming generation of augmented reality (AR) headsets could be more useful. 

Oppo recently announced the Air Glass, an AR device that'll go on sale early next year. Google and Apple are also rumored to be working on their own versions of AR headsets. 

"AR brings in 3D, a captive experience, real-time interaction, and creative content like never before," Ranga Jagannath, an AR expert, told Lifewire in an email interview. "When people think of video games, for example, they think of entertainment, but the potential is far greater. Digital worlds have the power to simulate real-world environments and exceed the limits of reality to improve lives in many ways."

Your World, Enhanced

OPPO Air Glass with half-frame in silver


Oppo's Air Glass is an AR device slated to sell next year. The device has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 4100 processor and weighs about 1oz. The company claims it will last for 3 hours of active usage and 40 hours on standby. 

Oppo offers two frame designs, a silver half-frame and a black full-frame, and each is available in two sizes. The inside of the frame has a magnetic port that allows it to be attached to more conventional glasses.

Air Glass isn't the only AR system in town, of course.

Apple is reportedly working on augmented reality glasses that could be released early next year. The Apple glasses could cost as much as $3,000. In addition, Google may be working on a rival AR product. The company is actively hiring to create an "Augmented Reality OS" for an unspecified "innovative AR device." Magic Leap, arguably the first AR company, has recently focused on the enterprise market with its own system. 

Shakespeare in 3D

Magic Leap AR system

Magic Leap

AR devices like these can be particularly useful in education. John Misak, a professor of humanities at the New York Institute of Technology, uses AR devices to teach 16th-century Shakespearean literature college students. 

"While Hamlet is ubiquitously listed as required reading at colleges and universities in the United States, for many students, reading complex Shakespearean English can seem like deciphering a tedious, ancient language," Misak told Lifewire in an email interview. 

To make the Bard more engaging, Misak worked closely with a colleague to develop the AR/3-D game Perchance, which immerses students in Shakespeare's Hamlet by enabling them to 'walk' around the castle where Hamlet meets his father's ghost.

"By focusing on specific elements of the play, particularly the scenes in which the ghost appears, students see what the character would see in that given moment," he said. "In experiencing the story firsthand, they can visualize key events while forging their own connections and memories with the play."

Current smartphones already offer a limited form of augmented reality by placing virtual objects on the screen and laying them over a picture of your environment. For example, AR allows consumers to see a product in 3D in their home, just as if they were in a store looking at it in real life. 

The company VNTANA creates software that uses AR so consumers can see how big the bag is or if the couch fits in their living room. 

"This gives them the confidence to buy, which has led to higher conversion rate, larger average cart size, and lower return rates," Ashley Crowder, the CEO of VNTANA, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

Augmented Reality will hit its stride when it can replace computers, phones, and other screens, trends expert Daniel Levine told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"Imagine just being able to throw up a screen in front of you anywhere you need one," Levine said. "To see directions laid on top of your environment, to bring up the name of an old acquaintance you randomly bump into, to watch a video while you wait for the dentist. The VR metaverse is cool and everything, but the near-future belongs to AR."

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