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AR and 5G could be the chocolate and peanut butter of tech in 2021

CNET Now What explores how each technology can make the other better.

Augmented reality is still unfamiliar to most people. 5G is also new, and many would argue they need each other to thrive. That means we all need to quickly learn a lot about two technologies that are supposed to be the next big thing. Now what?

"The nice thing about 5G is that it's fast and it's low latency," says Paul Travers, CEO of AR technology company Vuzix. The high latency and relatively low bandwidth of today's cellular connections would render cloud-based AR a disconnected experience compared to the frame-accurate responsiveness Vuzix expects to get from 5G as it moves AR's core to the cloud. "Especially if you're using edge compute, that means the cloud has to respond with sub-frame times" that don't delay the augmentation by even a single video frame's time. 

Vuzix Next Gen Smart Glasses

Goodbye to the "tech on your face" look. Vuzix says its next product line will pass for ordinary fashion eyewear, but with full display AR in almost any part of the wearer's field of vision.


Standalone 5G AR glasses may come as soon as the next year or two. Shrinking all the electronics down to fit within a pair of glasses will take longer than that, but Travers thinks an imminent middle ground will be glasses tethered to a small wearable belt pack with a 5G connection and an all-day battery. It's not the end game in a march toward lightweight cloud-based AR, but it's a key step in demonstrating how 5G can boost AR to a new level. 

Vuzix Next Gen glasses

The next version of Vuzix AR glasses will pack their electronics into slim glasses that barely betray that they are AR hardware. The next milestone is to include 5G technology in those temples.


AR glasses still endure the skepticism left by the initial launch of the Google Glass. But Travers thinks the Glass's short and rocky history was a benefit to AR in general. "I know they get a lot of egg on their face but, heck, man, the only way you get there is to get started and move the ball forward."

Paul Travers has been an AR innovator for a long time and had plenty of other insights about AR that he shared with Brian Cooley in the video above.


Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.