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Three top augmented reality trends: devices, artificial intelligence and the future of AR

  • Join us on the precipice of innovation as we explore three top augmented reality trends, from evolving devices and mobility to the transformative potential of AR and AI combined.
  • Gain insights from our brand-new consumer research plus expert tips on how CSPs can prepare for what’s to come.

Research Leader ConsumerLab

Experienced Researcher ECL

AR enhanced street view with advertisement

Research Leader ConsumerLab

Experienced Researcher ECL

Research Leader ConsumerLab

Contributor (+1)

Experienced Researcher ECL

We may only be halfway through 2024, but it’s already been jam-packed with innovation. Every tech announcement seemed to be another leap closer to the futuristic, immersive world we’ve dreamed of for decades. From the launch of Apple’s first mixed reality headset in February to OpenAI's recent GPT-4o unveiling and demonstrations, imaginations across the globe have been captured and ignited, fueled by emerging possibilities. The excitement is palpable; we stand on the brink of a monumental shift that will irrevocably transform how we – and all the generations to come – will see, experience, and interact with our world.  

With things changing so rapidly, it can be hard to stay ahead of developments in the world of augmented reality (AR) and immersive technologies. Here we’ll share our expert opinions and insights on the latest AR trends, supported by research from our brand-new ConsumerLab report, Augmented Tomorrow.

Key takeaways:

  • Smartphones are here to stay, despite their limited capacity for immersion – for now, at least, and for reasons you might not expect.
  • Stylish AR devices and greater mobility are key factors driving consumer demand – and the direction (or location) of future use cases and opportunities.
  • The combination of the latest artificial intelligence and augmented reality (AI and AR) technologies could be the catalyst that finally brings extended reality (XR) into the mainstream.
  • To make the most of emerging opportunities, communication service providers (CSPs) should act early to prepare for out-of-home AR use cases, starting with key locations like event venues and shopping areas.

Are you ready to blur the boundaries between today and tomorrow? Let’s step inside the changing world of AR.

Trend 1: Despite their limitations, smartphones are here to stay (for now)

Last year, our ConsumerLab report 5G Value showed a 50 percent increase in the time spent per day on smartphone AR experiences by 5G users between 2021 and 2023. But despite growing interest (and a few notable exceptions like the success of Pokémon Go and the popularity of Snapchat filters), we’ve yet to see the early expectations of AR realized through mainstream applications with a significant impact on our day-to-day lives.

This hesitancy from CSPs and developers alike is generally attributed to everyone is waiting for a “killer device” to drop. Smartphones are, after all, not ideal for XR. There’s a limit to how immersed you can be through a small phone screen – particularly one you have to hold up in your hand.

An AR device with mass appeal is undoubtedly on the horizon (as we’ll touch on in our next trend). But the fact remains, there are billions of AR-enabled smartphones around the world – and, for a large majority of users, their first experiences with AR will be on their phones. What’s more, smartphones are already designed and advanced with years of improvement to handle advanced compute capabilities and high-performance connectivity including 5G.

Creating a sleek and stylish pair of standalone AR glasses with the required compute capabilities and battery power is a huge challenge (until we offload compute processing to the edge or cloud, at least). However, there’s nothing to prevent the use of companion AR glasses tethered to our phones as an intermediary solution – which is exactly what we expect will happen.

What’s more, consumers aren’t even particularly bothered by the idea, already being used to using other media accessories with their phones. In fact, the new report showed 6 in 10 are willing to tether AR glasses to their smartphones in order to elevate AR experiences. Reflecting this, the number of consumers combining smartphones and AR devices is expected to double within the next five years.

Trend 2: Mobility is key – people want their AR on-the-go (and in style)

In our 5G: the next wave report from 2022, it was estimated that the amount of video content consumed by 5G users on mobile devices would grow by two hours per week by 2025, of which 1.5 hours would be on mixed reality (MR) or AR glasses.

To date, XR devices and headsets have been largely restricted to home use, due to their bulky form factor, lack of comfort and power and connectivity requirements. Even the more portable assisted viewers or spatial computing glasses have been hampered by issues with field of view, battery life or the insufficient value or variety of apps available.  Although there were some (not very safety-conscious) videos of people taking to the streets with the Apple Vision Pro, we’re yet to see any truly portable and accessible devices developed and scaled up to mass market appeal.

What may be surprising – and help counter this hesitation – are the insights from our new report that demonstrate just how hungry consumers are for mobility in AR. Not only did three quarters of consumers surveyed expect to be able to use AR or MR devices on-the-go in the next five years, they also expressed willingness to pay a premium – on average 20 percent more, and for some locations up to 33 percent more – for devices that could be used outside the home.

Percentage points difference in price willing to pay

Three quarters of consumers expect to be able to use AR/MR headsets on-the-go in the next five years.

Desired locations to use AR/MR headsets in the next five years

We also see this location-specific focus reflected clearly when we map interest against the current and emerging use cases for AR. Based on the patterns seen, we expect priority application areas will shift over time, starting with informational applications like real-time translation and navigation tools, then transitioning to more interactive, location and geo-spatial based applications such as AR-enhanced learning, sports, concerts and cultural events.

Early examples include AT&T’s 5G Game View™ app for women’s basketball fans in the US, The Green Planet AR Experience by EE (with Ericsson as network partner) that brought the world’s most picturesque natural environments to central London, or the commercial CSL AR lens app in Hong Kong, a platform that enables location-based and time-sensitive immersive AR experiences such as shopping events, games and special offers from merchants and brands.

Use case map

Form, function AND fashion are key for AR device success

It’s important to note that, as well as being portable, AR devices must also be sleek and stylish in design – and not just for comfort. Our new report found 35 percent of current device users had major concerns about the appearance and social perception of wearing these devices, and 61 percent of consumers said they would not wear AR or MR devices in public if they were not visually appealing.

This evidence is further supported by the apparent success of the second generation Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses. These smart glasses, while designed for social platform integration with image and video capture and streaming, also enable voice commands – bundled in one of the world’s most iconic models of sunglasses (or prescription glasses). In addition to bringing smart interactions through wearable glasses to the mainstream in an appealing way, they are also now trialing integration of Meta’s AI assistant – which brings us to our final trend.

Trend 3: AI and AR – a tech power-couple to kick-start the future of AR?

The recent developments in Generative AI technologies for text, code, image and video generation already showed huge value to support the creation of AR content. Now, these opportunities are skyrocketing. In case you missed it, OpenAI recently announced GPT-4o, their new multi-modal AI model that introduces real-time video and audio to their existing text interactions, with a more natural human-AI interaction style than ever.

The possibilities for what these latest generative AI assistants could do to accelerate AR into the mainstream are enormous – even with its current functionality and today’s AR uses. Just take the device design and image and video capabilities of the Meta Ray-Ban glasses, for example, tethered to your phone for full integration with an AI assistant, complete with overlays for real-time navigation, translation, retail suggestions and more, all personalized to your preferences and specifications.

By uniting these powerful technologies, multimodal large language models would become large action models. Simply by looking around and speaking, you could engage the AI agent to take action for you – show you the best way to your appointment across town and book your train tickets, for example. Incorporating AI-powered privacy or identify-protection filters as standard could even help address the bystander privacy concerns that some users have about AR devices. These technologies already exist, meaning this type of device could be revealed any day, changing the trajectory of how we interact with our world forever.

To take things a step further, imagine a future where integrating these multimodal large language models into AR glasses leads to the emergence of “generative AR”. These glasses will not only identify objects in your view but also enrich them with AR information generated on demand, offering real-time, personalized experiences tailored to your preferences and surroundings. The possibilities are endless – and incredibly exciting.


So, how can CSPs prepare for the future of AR?

Back when the iPhone first launched, mobile networks simply weren't ready. All of a sudden there was a lot of unanticipated traffic moving on the network, and nobody was prepared. If a breakout AR device emerges now, powered by AI and tethered to our smartphones, this could easily happen again. And the successful CSPs will be the ones who have already prepared and taken the steps to meet these requirements.

Here are our three top tips to ensure you can be ahead of the AR curve:

Get on top of your network requirements

As discussed in the Ericsson Technology Review magazine Spotlight on extended reality, introducing the kind of traffic and demands that XR applications generates will require high-performance networks with increased capacity, more uplink throughput and bounded latency. If you’re not sure where to start, think back to the upcoming uses. What use places can you boost your capabilities in, to enable AR where the demand is? Start with the top priority spaces like event venues or shopping hubs and replicate from there.

Start working with key players to co-create future AR opportunities

As mentioned in our previous blog post on taking advantage of the 5G opportunities of XR, collaboration with other ecosystem players such as startups, XR developers and gaming companies can be crucial. The Ericsson Startup 5G program is a great place to start, fostering collaboration between CSPs and the startup community, connecting CSPs with the right consumer innovation partners to help them accelerate the successful commercialization and monetization of 5G.

Think about differentiated connectivity and business models

It’s important to start strategizing early on the ways to monetize these opportunities. Many of these AR applications are very uplink heavy, therefore may require not just best-effort 5G but differentiated connectivity – an approach that opens up new business models. For example, you could package AR glasses, or exciting new AR services, with a plan or bundle that offers premium connectivity to deliver an exceptional experience, such as a set number of hours of good uplink, without them having to think about the network. Consider the tethering possibilities, and how these devices could be incorporated in your distribution channels.

You can also leverage the exposure of network APIs such as quality of demand or device location, that can help developers to create a unique or improved experience. Don’t forget that in network performance, consistency is key. Inconsistency has been a major concern for developers who, as a result, develop apps they know will work at the lowest performance levels. If an AR game or activity is expected to take place in a park, for example, can a player expect consistent latency throughout the game session? Consider how you can ensure consistent performance to build trust and support new applications.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this dive into the latest in the realm of AR – it’s a fast-evolving space, and, while these technologies aren’t able to show us what the future will bring (yet), we hope that our research and insights into consumers, devices and the demands driving AR use cases will help you in your preparations for the months and years to come.  

Learn more

Read the new Ericsson ConsumerLab report Augmented Tomorrow in full to gain an even deeper insight into consumer opinions and behaviors around AR.

Find out more about how immersive technologies are changing the way we live and work.

Explore more reports and consumer research from Ericsson ConsumerLab.

Look even further ahead with our key takeaways on the future of 6G XR.

Discover how XR and 5G are transforming mission-critical applications.

Learn more about the network requirements of AR in our Ericsson Mobility Report.

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