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AR Glasses, Step Back: VR Hybrids Will Be The First Mainstream Form of “AR”

AR Glasses, Step Back: VR/AR Hybrids Will Lead Mainstream AR

Passthrough AR technology solves many of the current-day issues of AR and will pave the way to mainstream AR in 2021

Go to the profile of Lucas Rizzotto

Lucas Rizzotto

Jan 6

Over the past months, you may have seen GIFs like this circulating around the web.

Cool, right? These are AR experiences (we’ll describe them as AR on this article for simplicity’s sake) designed by developers from all around the world — but they weren’t built with traditional AR headsets like the HoloLens, Meta 2 or Magic Leap. They were built with traditional VR headsets like the Vive Pro.

Could VR headsets be the ideal starting platform for Mixed Reality? (Image Credit: VRScout)

These headsets are special and contain something called passthrough AR — this is an experimental, dev-only mode that lets creators access live footage from the front cameras of the device and then merge in digital elements on top of the footage.The result is a convincing illusion that makes you forget you’re wearing a headset, mixing your physical world with the digital into one: a Mixed Reality experience.

Passthrough AR isn’t perfect right now: the positioning of the cameras needs some work to simulate your vision and the latency isn’t low enough for day-to-day use. But devices running it right now were never designed for passthrough — it has always been treated as an afterthought, a bonus, experimental feature.

Movies and sports and other events will be viewable in VR as technology continues to advance.

But this won’t be a problem for much longer.

Startup VRVana created a VR/AR hybrid — and was quickly acquired by Apple for $30 million (Image Credit: Tom’s Hardware)

All major companies in the space have been dialing up their experiments with passthrough AR — and some even started building their own headsets. One of the most notable cases is VRVana, a startup based out of Montreal who got acquired by Apple for their VR/AR hybrid — and could be a signal of how Apple is considering entering the immersive game.

VR/AR manufacturers are finally starting to realize the power of passthrough AR, and the list of benefits isn’t small: it enables full-fledged AR experiences for a fraction of the cost, addresses many of the issues with contemporary AR hardware, collapses all VR/AR/MR content into a single library and gives developers more creative power than ever before.

This is the beginning of a new era: VR/AR will finally become a single, immersive medium, setting off a new wave of creation that will start pushing AR into the mainstream.

And it will all begin with hybrid VR/AR headsets.

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