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Whatever happened to AR and VR?

They've been the "next big thing" for far too long. CNET Now What talks to an experience expert about what's next.

Augmented reality and virtual reality are still often spoken of in the same breath, perhaps because neither has broken out enough yet to demand its own clear spotlight. 2020's location disruption seemed like a perfect time to showcase the power of these two technologies, but it hasn't been. Now what?

AR darling Magic Leap failed to wave away the haze and confusion around AR to start revolution among the masses.

"I think there's still more potential and excitement in those topics than there is reality," says Jeff Geheb, global chief experience officer at VMLY&R, one of the world's largest marketing and brand firms. He rues the "barriers to a human being using an AR or VR experience; it requires special software, extra clicks, and very specific conditions for all the effort to pay off well" for consumers.

Apple's recent launch of 5G iPhones with lidar in some models helps set the table for some AR growth, but most watchers follow the market for wearables like AR glasses and VR headsets to gauge real lift. Trendforce research predicts 5 million AR/VR devices will ship in 2020, growing to 43 million units per year by 2025 as glasses and headsets proliferate from known brands like Apple, Huawei and Samsung. 

2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV Sport Platinum OGI2

Cadillac's use of AR in its newest models is an example of the useful value that will make the technology worth the cost, hassle and learning curve.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

But none of that will likely come true without a good reason, and hardware isn't it. Value is. "I think about things like when I'm in a grocery store and want to see couponing in real time as I'm walking through the aisles," says Geheb. "In those moments, when there is a clear value exchange, AR becomes far more compelling."

Facebook's Oculus Quest 2 "feels too good to be true," writes CNET's Scott Stein, but he also goes on to say it's much more of a gaming device than one that maps to the radically changed nature of the rest of our lives in 2020.

Brian Cooley elicited a number of other key insights about AR and VR in his talk with Jeff Geheb. Hear them all 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.