Consumer AR could have saved lives and the economy

We are very close to having devices that are not conspicuous or uncomfortable, devices that will feel like the sunglasses or prescription lens you now wear.

Jon Peddie
(Source: Tamara Bellis)


If any of you have attended any of my augmented reality lectures or read my book, you know I am an enthusiastic advocate of what I call consumer AR—AR glasses that look and feel no different than what you are wearing now.

They don’t exist, but there are several examples that are close. In 2016, I made the mistake of betting an expensive dinner with game developer Jesse Schell that we’d have such things by 2020. I’m waiting for him to tell me where I’m taking him.

But I still believe they are inevitable and when they do arrive they will change our lives forever.

A fully realized AR pair of glasses will have the following characteristics (but with a better frame).

For consumers to adopt AR smart glasses, two challenges have to be overcome: They must be attractive, and they must be technically sophisticated, very sophisticated. 


They will look more like these (or better, we hope).

Left: First-generation Focals with corrective lenses. (Source: North). Right: LaForge corrective AR glasses.


And when we are wearing them, in addition to being told where the nearest Starbucks is, and doing a realtime translation of what the person behind the counter is saying to us, they will be recording everything we see and hear, and give us environmental information.

What does that mean—environmental information?

Focusing on the pandemic for a moment, it can mean the following:

Social distancing—we will be able to see a yardstick or tape measure that tells us exactly how close we are to someone. Maybe, it will flash red when we get too close.

Temperature—we will be able to see the surface temperature of the face of the person speaking to us and those near us. Again, flashing red maybe—Danger! Danger!

Vapor—we will be able to see water droplets, someone sneezing or coughing, or a cartoon characterization of it.

Acceleration—if someone, or thing, is approaching us, from the front or the rear too fast, we will get a warning just as your car does now.

Witness—if someone is in a conflict, danger, or hurt, we and everyone present will be recording it, automatically. And can, optionally, transmit it to the cloud for everyone to see.

If …

If we had such wonder devices, we could have avoided the severity of the shelter at home. We could have kept shops and businesses open and taken precautions—and be automatically reported if we violated good practices.

If we had tested positive, we could be monitored and those near us warned.

If we wanted to be tested, our AR glasses would give us directions on where to go, and when.


We are very close to having devices that are not conspicuous or uncomfortable, devices that will feel like the sunglasses or prescription lens you now wear. As they drop in price and more people can avail themselves of them, the quality of life for everyone improves. They will work with a smartphone, like a pair of earbuds, AR glasses will be eye buds.

And when everyone, especially the police, knows everything is being recorded—behaviors will change and we will be nicer people to each other.

The cons are we evolve into a futuristic surveillance state where big brother is watching and we are big brother. The risk is some agency becomes the guardian of good behavior and we’re back to who monitors the monitors.