The dust of 2021 may still be settling, but 2022 is already cooking up a storm. Will we see Apple’s AR glasses? Will we see the NFT space explode or implode? Will brands like Nike and Adidas start to play in the same spaces as tech companies like Niantic and Snapchat? One thing’s for sure, XR is top of mind for tech giants and consumer brands alike.

Before we jump in, let’s reflect on some of the highlights of 2021:

Facebook released its first edition smart glasses to rival Snap, while Snap released its creator-only AR glasses and has been rapidly innovating its AR technology with multiplayer and location-aware features. Apple and Google spent most of 2021 in the dark, quietly building their efforts for AR hardware which is expected to surface sometime late this year/early 2023. Facebook meanwhile pivoted its entire company to a new name and new calling. Now Meta, Zuckerberg has made clear his company’s intention is to go all in on the Metaverse.

Niantic stuck its arms out, putting it on par with the likes of the big four (Google, Apple, Snap, Facebook) by announcing its real-world Metaverse play, along with its mobile AR platform Lightship. Kids’ social game platform Roblox IPOed and expanded its reach by enabling brands to create virtual worlds in their ecosystem, and Fornite significantly invested in its virtual concert offering. Apple, Samsung and Chinese mobile giant Huawei dropped Bluetooth favouring ultra-wideband technology enabling better precision tracking and communication. Netflix entered the gaming market with its new games platform, and the games industry started to explore a new model with crypto at its heart, Play to Earn. Finally, NFTs dominated 2021, moving from a niche offering to a play many brands jumped on, resulting in everything from digital merchandise to major mergers and acquisitions.

#1. Birth, death and evolution of the brand NFT ecosystem

NFTs are where AR was a couple of years ago in terms of adoption. Gartner would say it’s presently riding the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” in its hype cycle model. However, NFTs are rapidly being woven into our culture, helped by some of the world’s largest brands. Social media platforms Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are all working on features to enable users to showcase their NFTs. Samsung also just announced its new 2022 TV lineup would have similar functionality.

Late last year, speculation grew that Millennials and Gen Z would be spending thousands on crypto and NFTs as gifts over the festive season. Sotheby’s recently announced its own NFT programme for curated digital artwork. Nike also made one of the biggest plays in this space by purchasing NFT fashion startup RTFTK Studios and filing patents for virtual goods to build virtual retail experiences. Adidas also teamed up with the likes of Bored Ape Yacht Club and gmoney, followed up by a virtual land purchasing spree in crypto-run virtual world Sandbox.

Many brands entering this space use digital merchandise sales to cater to a select few who can afford them. However, exclusivity over inclusivity can hurt a fan base and could be perceived as a cash grab. Most brands using this as a primary tactic are running the risk of alienating their existing fan base, creating disappointment and frustration for fans in the pursuit of following a marketing trend. In 2022, we are going to see success, failure, but more importantly, evolution. NFTs need to move to a more sustainable model for widespread adoption. Game companies learnt years ago that as a brand it’s essential to nurture a fan base at all levels. For NFTs to become a significant vertical for a brand, it needs to move beyond the current model of an exclusive limited run of digital merchandise for sale and offer utility. Essentially, the NFT space needs to be flipped on its head.

Game companies learnt years ago that as a brand it's essential to nurture a fan base at all levels.

All 30,000 of Adidas’ ‘Into the Metaverse’ NFTs were minted within a matter of hours of going on sale.

#2. Virtualisation of workspace

Space is premium, especially now as many companies look towards the future living with the impacts of COVID-19. However, it’s not just our office spaces that need to cater to our work needs; our home spaces have rapidly become our primary workspace. We have spent the last two years carving out personal spaces to avoid distractions. However, a more significant and growing issue is the need to be physically present and connected with others – made difficult when currently all we’re doing is sitting at our desk talking to others via flat 2D screens.

For many businesses, it’s the first time they’re exploring hybrid and remote working models as default, and this has raised many questions about what the future of the workplace will look like. 2022 we will see significant shifts in our workspace culture, supported by XR technology. More businesses will look at bringing workers into virtual 3D spaces to collaborate and communicate but more importantly feel like they are physically connecting. Companies such as Spatial have gained significant traction over the past couple of years, enabling people to collaborate in virtual meeting spaces in XR. Microsoft is also working on a substantial enterprise play using its Mesh platform to evolve its Teams offering for its 250 million users. Meta is exploring an enterprise version of its headset and the development of its virtual workspace platform, Horizon Workrooms. And with companies such as Zoom also exploring this space, our workspaces will blur the lines between physical and digital reality.

More businesses will look at bringing workers into virtual 3D spaces to collaborate and communicate but more importantly feel like they are physically connecting.

Meta's opportunities, interactions and connectivity will be underpinned by its Horizon product line.

#3. XR TV and the future of the living room

The convergence of technology is driving new opportunities across many fields. Look no further than your television and the living room as a perfect example of this “accelerated innovation”. For many years, game consoles have dominated the interactive playspace in our living rooms. However, a new wave of technology innovations, broadcasting formats, and business models are looking to disrupt this.

2022 will see a significant shift in our TVs’ interactive capabilities, powered by XR technology. We will see devices such as cameras starting to become integrated into our TVs. In addition, computer vision-driven experiences will enable the TV to understand audience presence within their physical space, creating opportunities for personalised media experiences and for us to interact with content that can extend beyond the screen. Meta is already out the door with its Portal platform offering video chat and AR experiences on the big screen. However, many broadcasters, television studios, and tech companies are working on the next interactive format for TV. It’s been no secret Apple has been working on a new version of its Apple TV with a camera, and it’s rumoured that Disney+ and Netflix are also experimenting with a more interactive format for content. We have also seen fitness platform Peloton announce a play in this space. Finally, more recently, broadcasting giant Sky announced its new line of all-in-one Glass TVs which comes with its subscription services. Sky also previewed its camera device, which enables video chat, shared watching and games like Fruit Ninja. 

So there you have it! 2022 will be as exciting, if not more. We will see exciting new hardware emerge, more established brands explore NFT as a business model, extension and expansion of our workplace through virtualisation and finally, revolutionary new interactive TV formats.

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in this space, ping us an email.

Image credits © Sky, Adidas & Meta.

2022 will see a significant shift in our TVs’ interactive capabilities, powered by XR technology.


James is Creative Technology Director at PRELOADED. He is passionate about building inclusive experiences that bring people together, and which educate and entertain.