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AR and VR Have Potential to Reshape Wearable Tech Landscape

Frequently integrated into wearable devices such as smart glasses and headsets, extended reality (XR) technology — encompassing augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) — is unlocking new levels of immersive experiences across sectors such as healthcare, retail and beyond.

Take, for instance, the potential impact of AR smart glasses in healthcare. According to IDTechEx’s Senior Technology Analyst Sam Dale, AR displays have the potential to enhance vision for individuals with hearing impairments, bridging communication gaps and offering lifestyle improvements. 

Similarly, in industries like aviation and medicine, VR simulations could enhance training by offering accessible and lifelike scenarios, Dale said on a recent episode of IDTechEx’s podcast, “Tomorrow’s Tech by IDTechEx,” whether it’s guiding a surgeon through a complex procedure or providing fighter pilots with instructions displayed through headset lenses.

In the industrial sector, XR wearables are streamlining operations and enhancing productivity. Warehouses, for instance, have embraced AR headsets to guide workers and provide maintenance support, similar to the approach Google took with its Google Glass product.

XR’s influence extends beyond workplaces and hospitals; it’s also transforming education. Pharmacy schools, for instance, are leveraging VR to address limitations in equipment and facilities. 

“These facilities are extremely costly, and it is prohibitive for most schools to build one for educational purposes,” Dayanjan S. Wijesinghe, an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University, said of the lack of on-site sterile compounding facilities. “The best way to learn about sterile compounding is to practice it in person, but the next best option is virtual reality.”

Even the way consumers shop is undergoing a digital transformation, thanks to XR. Augmented reality try-on experiences are enabling shoppers to virtually try on clothing and accessories from the comfort of their homes. As PYMNTS reported last month, retail giants Walmart and Amazon are stepping up their digital try-on capabilities, enabling consumers to visualize products in real time, enhancing engagement and driving conversion rates. 

PYMNTS Intelligence research also found that a significant share of consumers are eager for VR to replicate the experience of brick-and-mortar shopping. Specifically, among the 95% of consumers who own or have access to at least one internet-connected device, one-third expressed a high level of interest in using VR technology to shop and buy retail products available in physical stores, all from the comfort of their home or office. Moreover, 4% of respondents reported already engaging in this immersive shopping experience. 

However, the journey toward widespread XR wearable adoption is not without hurdles. Smart glasses have faced challenges in the consumer market due to concerns related to aesthetics, limited use cases, and privacy issues surrounding built-in cameras. 

Similarly, Apple’s Vision Pro headset, launched earlier this year, hasn’t garnered the expected level of enthusiasm. Complaints about discomfort, headaches and eye strain have led early adopters to return their headsets, highlighting the importance of addressing usability and comfort concerns in advancing XR technology.

Despite these challenges, the future of wearable devices remains promising. With continued innovation and collaboration, the integration of XR into these gadgets is poised to play a pivotal role in redefining how consumers live, work and engage with technology, ushering in a new era of immersive interaction and functionality.