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10 AR/VR Trends from CES 2020

With 170,000 attendees and 4,400 companies on the expo floor (over 350 of them self identified as AR/VR according to the CES directory), CES can be quite an overwhelming event. Half platform to announce new tech, half

“Skymall of the Future” — CES has always been a great place for me to soak up all the innovation and return home to rinse it all out to realize some trends.

Here are the 10 augmented reality and virtual reality trends I saw play out on the CES 2020 showroom floor.

Trend #1: Smartphones are becoming even more powerful AR machines and continue to sit at the center of today’s augmented reality solutions

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

From flying cars to smart potatoes, with all the gadgets on the floor it is easy to forget about the smartphone at CES. But the device we have been carrying around for the past decade is getting more powerful — with new sensors, bigger screens and improved connectivity — making them even better AR machines.

Today’s smartphones and tablets are already capable of augmented reality (both as native apps and using the browser) but newer devices are getting hardware upgrades that are designed to optimize AR experiences including larger screens and new spatial sensors. In addition, we are seeing that the smartphone is sitting at the center of current consumer AR smartglass solutions, with glasses acting as an accessory to the smartphone rather than a replacement.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • The latest chips & processors made to handle immersive experiences and gaming and to make devices smaller (Qualcomm, Intel, Nvidia, AMD)

  • 5G-enabled devices will take advantage of low-latency networks as they come online (TCL & Samsung)

  • New sensors including the Time of Flight (ToF) depth sensor on the rear of the device and the roll-out of ultra wideband technology are making smartphones spatially aware (Samsung)

  • Foldable screens are increasing the field-of-view for AR experiences (TCL)

  • Smartglasses are new accessories for the smartphone, either tethered to this device or wirelessly connected via Bluetooth (Nreal, MadGaze, Human Capable, North, 0Glasses, AM Glasses)

Trend #2: Consumer AR smartglasses are getting more wearable but lack developer ecosystems to help define the value


AR glasses were definitely one of the most talked about categories at CES 2020 — especially those that are targeting the face of consumers. While this isn’t the first year we have seen a multitude of consumer AR glasses at the show, the smattering of hardware we did see had some marked differences. The first was that these glasses are looking more and more like glasses, although we seem to be entering the uncanny valley of eyewear. The second was that the majority of players were from China. What remained the same this year was an unclear value proposition due to a lack of developer ecosystem for these devices leaving little to no content to help us understand its use.

Smartglasses are far from ready from its smartphone-killing moment the AR industry is waiting for, but the hardware we saw at the show is signaling that we are getting closer.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • Smartglasses with sleeker, lighter and more wearable form factors

  • Smartglasses strived to be more fashionable with different styles and color options (although we are in the uncanny valley of eyewear)

  • Smartglasses are becoming “somewhat” affordable $400-$600 USD

  • Most of the smartglasses are tethered/connected to an Android smartphone

  • Consumer smartglasses lack developer ecosystems and therefore content to highlight the value proposition to wear them, the majority of glasses featured smartphone screen extension, notifications, and porting of Android apps as current content options

  • (Examples of above included North, Nreal, Human Capable, MadGaze, 0Glasses and Pacific Rim)

Trend #3: AR/VR headsets are hard at work with full enterprise solutions in various verticals


While consumer headworn devices continue to ready themselves for mainstream adoption, this device category is already in use at work. At CES we saw full solutions in play demonstrating AR’s upskilling capabilities, including organizations announcing full roll-outs of smartglasses across their global workforce, VR as a powerful training tool. We also saw a number of hardware manufacturers debut devices aimed at the enterprise with improved displays and form factors that keep the worker in mind.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • New hardware for the enterprise (ThirdEye Gen, Vuzix, Varjo & VRgineers)

  • Mixed reality hardware featuring enterprise applications rather than just hardware (ThirdEye Gen, Magic Leap)

  • Solution roll-out announcements (PSA Groupe Factory + RealWear)Remote assistance solutions (Airo & Teamviewer)

Trend #4: VR and AR displays are advancing which is necessary for these realities to look more real


Our life is in 20/20 and in real-time and this is the ultimate expectation of AR and VR in order for these simulated realities to seem real. This is especially key for enterprise use of these technologies for training and simulation purposes. The good news is that CES 2020 showed us that we are nearing this future with higher resolutions and improved refresh rates for VR devices, and new optical advancements for AR glasses using waveguide, light field and pin mirror methods. We also saw VR devices capable of AR using video pass-through.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • Higher resolution some human eye resolution (Pimax, VRgineers, Varjo)

  • Increased Field of View (VRgineers)Improved refresh rates (Pimax)

  • Advanced AR optics using Waveguide, Light field, Pin mirror methods (DigiLens, LetinAR, Creal)

  • AR video passthrough capable devices (Varjo & VRgineers)

Trend #5: As we continue to hone our digitization of sight and sound, touch is the next sense on the horizon


In order for AR/VR to truly be immersive we need to digitize the entire human experience. While the majority of efforts at this time are focused on digitizing our sight and sound to make us see and hear a brand new reality, the next sense to add to this mix seems to be touch. CES featured a number of haptic experiences from suits to gloves that begin to show how we will start to feel things in these new realities. The glove category was especially active at the show with higher end offerings including advanced haptic systems and force feedback mechanisms.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • Haptic gloves, some with force feedback (Teslasuit & Haptx)

  • Haptic devices using ultrasound(Ultraleap)

  • Haptic suit and vest (bHaptics & Teslasuit)

Trend #6: AR/VR interaction gets more natural and intuitive leveraging many human parts


This year at CES we saw a number of companies working on ways to make input and control of AR/VR experiences more natural and intuitive. From eye-tracking to brain-computer interfaces, exhibitors demonstrated that the time beyond controllers is nigh. One of the key trends that came out of the show was the integration of eye-tracking and hand-tracking into headworn devices voiding the need for peripheral systems for these features.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • Eye-tracking (Pico + Tobii & VRgineers)

  • Hand tracking (ThidEye + ManoMotion)

  • Gesture control using wearables (Teslasuit & Haptx)

  • Gesture control using radar (Acconeer)BCI (NextMind & BrainCo)

Trend #7: Hearables demonstrate that in-ear technologies can change the world around you, one sound at a time

Waverly Labs

“Hearables are the new wearable”, says IDC and CES was not void of in-ear technologies. While a lot of attention is on augmenting our experience of reality with sight, audio AR via hearables is a very viable first step for AR in the mainstream. At CES we saw devices facilitating real-time translation and editing the audio in your environment to make it easier to hear. Many sported new sensors to measure your biometrics including monitoring your blood pressure. While some examples of in-ear devices began to show a path for making hearing aids more socially acceptable and consumer ready.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • Real-time translation (Waverly Labs)Noise control (Nuheara & Lizn)

  • Consumer-focused Hearing aids (Eargo and Olive)

  • Biometrics monitoring including blood pressure (Amazfit & Valencell)

Trend #8: Automakers show AR and VR is the future of mobility as cars get closer and closer to driving themselves


Cars are evolving. As automotive moves more and more towards autonomous driving, the car is changing from something you use to something you experience. One of my favorite areas to visit at CES is the automotive hall and its because automakers are forced to become futurists and through their concepts are showing the convergence of technologies to transform mobility. While this year seemed to be less exciting than previous ones, car makers did show off concepts of 3D windshield HUDs for navigation and entertainment content, empathetic vehicles that used in-car sensors to create an optimal experience and in-vehicle VR and non-screens as windows to change the riding experience. Content in the car was a huge trend at CES this year as we continue to see cars get more and more screens and content partnerships announced.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • 3D HUD in windshield mainly facilitating navigation (Audi)

  • In-Vehicle VR use (Honda)In-vehicle use of gaze tracking (BMW)

  • Windows that sport nano-screens (Panasonic)

  • Empathetic vehicles using in-car sensors (Audi)

  • Content partnerships forming between auto makers and publishers (Viacom & Byton)

Trend #9: Holographic screens emerge as a new category that promise to deliver an AR experience to consumers with no personal device required

Looking Glass Factory

Here come the holograms. Holographic screens made a big splash at CES this year showcasing a new AR device category which promises a frictionless experience for users with no personal device (headworn or handheld) required. Manufacturers were showcasing a variety of different screen technologies including lightfield, pepper’s ghost and those that require eye-tracking. While volumetric scanning companies were showcasing ways to create content for these screens.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • 3D screens using eye-tracking (Dimenco & Sony)

  • Light field screens with 8K resolution (Looking Glass Factory)

  • Peppers ghost solutions (LINE’s Gatebox & VNTANA)

  • Volumetric scanning for content creation (Scanblue & Tetavi)

Trend #10: A brand new population of virtual humans are ready to come online to help you out and be your friend

Samsung / NEON

One of the most attention-getting trends at CES this year was definitely virtual beings. A brand new population of virtual beings are getting ready to go online and they will be there to assist and be your friend. At the show we saw a few companies offering deep fake video as a service, enabling organizations to create their own virtual spokesperson using AI, trying to make them look as “real” as possible. While other organizations took a more animated approach to create characters users will create a relationship as caregivers and friends.

What We Saw at CES 2020

  • “Deep fake” video as a service to provide virtual people for customer service (Samsung’s NEON & One Hour)

  • Organizations launched virtual beings as part of their of their solution (Addison Care)

  • Consumer virtual characters you interact with like smart speakers (LINE’s Gatebox)



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