Disruptive.Asia: Consumer AR Needs 5G and Cheaper Headsets to Really Take Off

Disruptive.Asia finds that the real boost for AR will come from the consumer market – provided device prices come down far enough, and provided operators harness the combined power of 5G, cloud, edge, and AI to provide the best user experience for AR. AR is fast gaining traction in various enterprise segments, especially in China.

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AR has been mainly an enterprise play. In Huawei Better World Summit for 5G + AR, Bob Cai, CMO of Huawei’s Carrier BG, talked about how the vendor has already found in-house uses for AR during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as showcasing products to clients virtually, and speeding up base station rollouts by providing AR info to field engineers to eliminate multiple site visits.

The consumer AR market hasn’t been languishing. David MacQueen, executive director of Strategy Analytics, noted that AR is already resonating with consumers with hits such as Pokémon Go, Snapchat and TikTok, driving heavy usage across a huge market of 1.5 billion devices that includes both AR headsets and AR-enabled smartphones and tablets. However, consumer AR will really take off once standalone AR headsets are light, comfortable and cheap enough. They will need to be supported by a good quality, 5G network.

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From Disruptive.Asia’s point of view, it doesn’t just mean superfast connections to the base station – it also means leveraging other key features of 5G infrastructure. Mobile edge computing will help improve latency, and AI can interpret live video coming in and contextualize data. All of this is necessary for AR to deliver the best possible user experience, MacQueen said. This also means AR is a juicy opportunity for 5G operators as consumer AR is inherently a mobile play.

It was critical to develop an AR ecosystem of partners developing devices, networks and content. Eric Zhao, vice president of Huawei’s CNBG Marketing, said that the experience of LG U+ shows that a robust 5G network is crucial for developing valuable AR services.

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