Home >Technology >Gadgets >Jio Glass faces an uphill ride as virtual/mixed realty products remain niche

NEW DELHI : At its 43rd annual general meeting, Reliance Jio launched Jio Glass to strengthen its presence in virtual reality space and capitalise on remote working culture.

While VR (virtual reality) and MR (mixed reality) technologies have been around for quite some time now, they have remained on the fringes. Google’s Daydream View VR headset and Facebook’s Oculus Go are some of the big names in the space and that were launched with a lot of fanfare, but over the years, they have struggled to turn an average user into a VR enthusiast.

Disappointed with the poor response, Google went on to discontinue the Daydream View VR in 2019 and in June this year Facebook discontinued the Oculus Go, which was a more advanced VR headset that worked independently and didn’t require a smartphone or PC to work with it.

However, despite the lukewarm interest seen by these global tech giants for their VR and MR products, industry experts feel that the timing of the launch, in the current pandemic where work, education and most services have moved online, even if temporarily, may work in Jio's favour.

"The timing is very perfect for products like Glass now considering the circumstance we are in. We need a lot of immersive technologies. If Jio can bring it an affordable price it is going to help education, healthcare and businesses," Faisal Kawoosa, chief analyst and founder, techARC.

Made by Tesseract, the start-up Reliance Jio acquired in 2019, the Jio Glass has in-built audio system and it works with any smartphone. The compatibility with all smartphones is a big icebreaker considering that Google DayDream VR and Samsung’s VR headset worked with a few smartphones and that too the premium ones. Though Google had a more affordable option in Google Cardboard that cost just 300 and worked with any smartphone its content was limited and user experience was very rudimentary. Also, Google’s OEM partners never shared Google’s enthusiasm about the product.

Experts feel being tied to a smartphone will limit the usage of Jio Glass to some extent and not every student will have smartphones available all the time. A product that is dependent only on a smartphone will be limiting, but that’s fixable in a next version, said Prasanto Roy, tech policy analyst.

Lack of VR content is also a major reason why the adoption of these products has been limited. Unlike smartphones or PCs, VR and MR platforms have a very small ecosystem of apps and games. Jio Glass offers 25 apps.

“I’m not sure what Jio could do better than Google or Facebook in terms of inspiring consumer demand in a market like India. It could well be a flagship product to position Jio as a tech innovator, without necessarily expecting to sell large numbers," said Roy.

Jio has been quite successful at building the ecosystem and large partners. If they forge tieups with industry and push for adoption the Jio Glass may go places where Google and Facebook couldn’t.

techARC's Kawoosa added that products like Jio Glass are steps toward building an ecosystem.

Tying up with hospitals, manufacturers, enterprises and the education sector may drive up the adoption of Jio Glass.

Whether Jio Glass clicks or meets the same fate as Daydream VR and Oculus Go, one thing that works in its favour is the mainstream design. It looks more like regular glasses while Google Daydream VR and Oculus Go looked more like futuristic headsets from a sci-fi movie.

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