Optical and Sensor Components for Smart Glasses to Reach $3.2 Billion by 2019 Says New NanoMarkets Report
Published: September 29, 2014 Category: Emerging Electronics Glass and Glazing
Glen Allen, Virginia:  If smart glasses, such as Google “Glass” emerge as a mass market item – perhaps replacing smart phones as the main mobile computing and communications platform over the next decade — they will generate $3.2 billion in new business revenues for the makers of sensors, lightguides, microdisplays and micromirrors.  So says a new report from NanoMarkets.  The report, “Smart Glasses:  Component and Technology Markets — 2014” notes that smart glasses technology is at an early stage of development and will create opportunities for both novel optical subsystems such as virtual retinal displays (VRDs) and advanced human-computer interfaces such as eye-tracking and brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).
About the Report
This report examines the components and subsystems markets for smart glasses, focusing on the markets for both the core optical subsystems (curved mirrors, diffractive, holographic, polarized optics, reflective, switchable waveguides, and VRDs) and key human-computer interfaces (touch, voice recognition, gesture recognition, speech-text conversion, eye-tracking and BCI)
Eight-year forecasts in revenue and volume terms are included for each of these components and subsystems.  The report also discusses the strategies of the firms involved in supplying these parts for smart glasses over the next decade as well as the component requirements of the leading OEMs.  Companies covered in this report include: Apple, APX, Atheer, Augmedix, BCInet, Brilliant Service, BuBBles, Canon, Chirp Microsystems, Elliptic Labs, Emotiv Systems, Epson, Eye Tribe, EyeSight, EyeTap, Foxconn, Freescale, GlassUp, Google, Guger, Himax, Hitachi, Innovega, Interactive Productline, Invensense, JVC, Konica Minolta, Kopin, LaForge Optical, Laster, Lenovo, LG, Lumus, Luxottica, Maui Jim, Meta, Metaio, Microchip Technologies, Microsoft, Mind Solutions, Neonode, NeuroSky, Nokia, Novartis, Olympus, Optinvent, OrCam, Pivothead, QD Laser, Quantum Interface, Recon, Rochester Optical, Samsung, SBG Labs, SixthSense, SmartEyeglass, Starlab, Synaptics, Technical Illusions, Telekom Innovation, Texas Instruments, Thalmic Labs, Tobii, Vergence Labs, Vuzix, WeON, Wikitude, XOEye and Zeal Optics
From the Report
The market for optical subsystems (comprising mirrors, lightguides and microdisplays) for smart glasses will reach $1.9 billion by 2019. NanoMarkets notes there are considerable opportunities for improving on today’s systems which often distort or lose light and can result in overly large and unattractive smart glasses.  In particular, there is a trend towards thinner lightguides and smaller components with which smart glasses can more closely resemble a pair of regular spectacles.  Another design strategy for smart glasses that will make them more natural will be the inclusion of VRDs.  However, VRDs continue to suffer from an eye box that is so small that eyes tend to lose the picture.  As a result, NanoMarkets expects no significant revenues from VRDs until the 2018-2019 period.
The arrival of smart glasses could also result in a revolution in mobile display technology.  Almost all mobile displays today are LCDs or OLEDs, but displays for smart glasses are just as likely to be based liquid-crystal-on-silicon (LCoS) or even Texas Instruments’ DLP technology. If the smart glasses market takes off, then the “average” mobile display would become increasingly likely to be LCoS rather than standard LCDs.  This would create opportunities for LCoS makers, who have often been fairly marginal firms up until now.  Two display firms – Himax and Kopin – are already a presence in the smart glasses segment and a few large suppliers – Hitachi and JVC for example – have the resources to compete with their own LCoS displays for smart glasses.
An intrinsic part of the wearable computer concept is that wearables – including smart glasses – will “merge” with the body of the wearer. This implies that smart glasses will transition to more “natural” human-computer interfaces (HCIs) and suggests that there will be a transition from the touch and voice control that are now common in smart glass to gesture control (especially eye tracking) and, eventually BCIs.  At the present time, the revenues from eye tracking and BCIs in smart glasses are negligible, but combined are expected to reach more than $680 million by 2019.  Eye-tracking technology is already being developed by Google for Google “Glass.”
Today most of the sensors and other components used in smart glasses are said to be off-the-shelf parts, although even these are customized to some degree.  In many cases, these components are best characterized as a semi-customized variation of what might be considered a standard product.  In the future, NanoMarkets expects components and subsystems to be more specifically oriented towards the needs of smart glasses.
Firms that have supplied the components for head-mounted displays (HMDs) and heads-up displays (HUDs) for many years, will have the opportunity to pump up volumes if they can get their devices designed into smart glasses by leading OEMs.  Conversely sensor firms that are already selling in large volumes to the automotive and consumer electronics markets may now have a new market to tap into to.  NanoMarkets also believes that some firms that have sold specialized optical subsystems to limited-volume markets (such as optical communications and medical) in the past, may now see some higher volume opportunities emerge from the smart glasses space.
About NanoMarkets:
NanoMarkets tracks and analyzes emerging markets in energy, electronics and other areas created by developments in advanced materials. The firm is a recognized leader in industry analysis and forecasts of sensor and display components markets.
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Robert Nolan
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