Why Augmented Reality hasn’t kicked in yet?

I’ve been thinking about this lately. Virtual reality scene is stomping away, many different companies are pushing their VR implementations and devices to the market. On digital entertainment side it seems to be the hottest thing. (At least after the Pokémon Go…) But what on earth happened to AR?

You could spend the whole evening debating what is and what isn’t augmented reality. And where augmented, mixed and virtual realities mix and smash and which is which. For the sake of simplicity, I’m just focusing on the head mounted display type of augmented reality. You know, the Google Glass and such.

Google Glass became available about the same time with the first Rift from Oculus. The hype was building up and techies waited for the new gadget. Finally, the Glass hit the streets — and then there was just silence… At least this is how I remember things happening. Early adaptors tried to be positive, but the ugly truth was that the Glass was one big disappointing experience.

I consider Glass being sort of a tech demo, it was never meant to be a consumer product. It was only a first whack at the new industry, just to get the ball running. But the momentum didn’t build up. The interesting thing is, that there haven’t been any major follow ups. Eventually even Google canned the Glass. It’s like everyone just gave up on the AR and turned their attention to VR. Seemed as if no one really knew what to do with the AR.

Those with enough imagination and ideas just couldn’t deliver and I believe this was mainly because of the poor hardware. Screen of the size of a five-inch display at an arm’s length away just wasn’t going to cut it. The platform was just too bad for testing any real life applications. Everybody was stuck with the concept, idea and maybe a rough mock up, but it was nearly impossible to provide that essential ‘Wow!’ -feeling to potential customers, get the developing money flowing and keep the underlying tech afloat.

Now Microsoft has released the HoloLens development edition and the Magic Leap is on everybody’s tech-radar. It’s going to be interesting to see how these are going to change the AR environment. For now, it seems that both are leaning heavily towards the entertainment and mixed reality side. Will it eventually be something more than just sharks swimming in the living room and giant death robots crawling out of the office walls?