Seeing in augmented reality is hard

The next step for pixels and eyeballs is smart glasses. Jon Peddie sees many challenges ahead before we all wear them.

“Augmented Reality: Where We All Will Live” is the new book from Jon Peddie, now available on

Smart glasses are the next wave for augmented reality (AR), says graphics industry pioneer and analyst Jon Peddie. They will be quite popular in industrial settings, and somewhat popular in the consumer marketplace. But they won’t be easy to make.

Smart glasses (or smartglasses, the industry can’t make up its mind on how to refer to them) are wearable computer glasses that add information alongside or in front of what the wearer is looking at. “I believe we will have consumer quality — not obnoxious attention-calling, geeky looking — augmented reality glasses, smart glasses, by 2020,” says Peddie. But it’s not going to be easy getting there.

Virtual reality (VR) devices such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have been getting the most attention in the press, because of their obvious entertainment potential. But augmented reality, Peddie says, is useful for a wider range of applications. The problem is, AR places much heavier demands on the display device than virtual reality.

In a new article for IEEE, Peddie explains each of the technical hurdles that must be crossed before augmented reality smart glasses become a reality. They include:

Wide range illumination:  An augmented reality display has to work in low light indoors (and not blind you), and in bright light outdoors (and be clearly seen).

Positional accuracy: If your augmented reality glasses are calling your attention to a coffee shop, the sign or logo of that coffee shop needs to be in close proximity to its actual location.  

Addressable occlusion: When that coffee shop logo pops up, can you see through it, or is it opaque?  

Depth of field: And where in the world, literally, is that coffee shop logo—is it close, or far away, and can you tell? The system needs to have an adjustable depth of field for the augmented reality image to correlate to the real world.

Latency. Augmented reality requires a latency of no more than 5 milliseconds; virtual reality latency only needs to be at 40 milliseconds.

The Ari augmented reality interface is one of many research projects now underway to create consumer-class smart glasses. (Source: Atheer)

“Augmented reality is possibly the most challenging display technology we have faced, maybe ever,” says Peddie. For more details, read Jon Peddie’s new article for IEEE: