July 6, 2020
Is Apple on a mission to reinvent eyeglasses? Perhaps, and the resulting technology could produce glasses with virtually infinite adjustments to your changing vision over time—never mind bifocal or trifocals for nearsightedness and farsightedness.
“I hear they have 19 different prototypes that they’re working on, which shows the effort that Apple’s doing,” tech analyst Robert Scoble said in a recent TechFirst podcast focused on an Apple patent win. “This is a multibillion-dollar effort going into eyeglasses and thinking through literally everything.”
One part of Apple’s project is better glasses for better vision: exactly what glasses were initially invented for. Another part is significantly more transformational: a complete reimagining of human-computer interfaces.
Essentially, it’s the next major leap in technology platforms—and, along the way, Apple might just disrupt the $120 billion eyewear market in the same way it devastated the Swiss watch industry with Apple Watch.
Indeed, almost every major tech company is now working on smart glasses. Google launched Glass years ago, retains an enterprise version of the product—and just acquired North, a Canadian manufacturer of light, natural-looking smartglasses.
And Forbes reports, Facebook just revealed an early version of its “holographic optics for thin and lightweight virtual reality” in a research report. Amazon has a limited-availability product with Alexa, Amazon Echo Frames.
Part one for Apple seems to be about the basics, according to a patent the company just received: correcting vision.“What they’re wanting to do is you put on a pair of glasses, and it sees inside your eye and bends the optic … in a way that corrects your vision perfectly, so you don’t need to go to an optometrist,” Scoble told Forbes.
The next level is notifications, and it’s what much of the low-end smartglasses space has focused on. With smartglasses notifications, the alert is right in front of your face.
Part three is where the game really changes, Scoble said, and we enter an era of “spatial computing,” virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality.
“Now you can compute while riding a mountain bike, or driving a car, or walking to a shopping center,” Scoble says. “You can replace the floor and make it something new, different, like a video game. You can then fly things in the air and they could bounce off the walls like balls, because this thing understands the 3D space it’s in. That’s why we call it ‘spatial computing,’ because you’re now computing as you’re moving through space … no longer are you tied to the little rectangular pieces of glass to compute: you can compute on literally everything.”
“This next paradigm shift is computing that you use while walking around, while moving around in space,” Scoble says.
“Facebook is planning on doing all sorts of magic stuff when you meet a friend in the street it’ll go beep and all of a sudden I’ll see your 3D costume that you just bought, something made for you, right?” Scoble says. “I’ll be like ‘Yeah, nice costume’ … in ten years, we’re going to have Burning Man 24 hours a day in the streets?
Which of course will bring an entirely new set of privacy concerns along with it, as every adopter will be wearing cameras and sensors, and major platforms will want a piece of that.
That’s probably one reason why Apple is working so hard right now to be the face of big tech privacy.
Research contact: @Forbes