Smart glasses shipments are set to hit 10m per year globally by 2018, according to new forecasts from Juniper Research. The figure is a far cry from current annual shipments of 87,000 from niche manufacturers, suggesting the market is set for hockey stick growth over the next few years. If it catches on that is, and predictions continue to vary wildly.
Cost is expected to be a key factor. The research predicts that as the retail price declines, adoption levels will rise considerably. The report forecasts that early adopter markets like North America, as well as the Far East and China and Western Europe will lead growth in the market.
But for such mass adoption to occur, smart glasses need to adapt and become more socially accepted, according to the report. Juniper asserts that smart glasses will be aimed at three key sectors of the tech world with demand being driven initially by consumer adoption, followed by enterprise uptake, before eventually being used in the healthcare industry. The report claims that the true breakthrough in smart glasses potential will be reached when diagnostic reference, surgical assistance and monitoring can be applied. Meanwhile the potential for application in the enterprise sector will encourage the development of new apps.
Despite uncertainty over how big the market for smart glasses really is, competitors to Google Glass are already stepping up. Microsoft is reportedly working on technology similar to Google’s augmented reality glasses and is believed to be in talks with hardware developers in Asia to create components including cameras that can be integrated into eyewear - just like Google's device. There’s a lot of buzz around wearable tech so it makes sense for Microsoft to be looking for a foot in the door as it attempts to position itself as a hardware-first company, but its prospects remain uncertain and augmented reality glasses in particular are still seen as being in an experimental phase. Although Google has inked deals with publishers like Hearst for its glasses, how anyone will make money from them remains unclear.