Can Apple's digital spectacles avoid the pitfalls of Google Glass?

Apple says it is committed to augmented reality and is reported to be considering expansion into wearable, digital glasses that would connect wirelessly to the iPhone.

Richard Drew/AP
Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook responds to a question during a 2015 news conference at IBM Watson headquarters, in New York.

Apple Inc. is rumored to be exploring an avenue into developing digital glasses, a risky venture into augmented reality that could yield a big payoff for the company if it’s successful.

Past forays into AR have seen companies come up short and shift their focus to virtual reality projects. While Google has attempted to tackle the technology in 2013 with its own Google Glass, the project ultimately failed, succumbing to low battery life, an unattractive design, and privacy backlash. To succeed in the market, Apple will have to create a sleek design that allows users to access what the company has to offer.

Stepping into the less-charted market of wearable technology isn’t the safest of moves. But if Apple can roll out a product that fills the gaps Google Glass left, it could become a leader in AR.

Still, developing that technology “is going to take a while, because there are some really hard technology challenges there, but it will happen in a big way, and we will wonder when it does, how we ever lived without it,” Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook said last month, Bloomberg reported. “Like we wonder how we lived without our phone today."

Sources close to the project told Bloomberg that the device would connect to iPhones wirelessly to reveal images and information in the glasses’ lenses. The devices, which could also use AR, remain in a developmental and experimental phase, and Apple has not yet ordered enough parts to indicate that they’re ready to begin producing the product for commercial sale.

Even with a renewed vision for the product, it’s hard to say whether Apple can surpass Google’s clumsy endeavor. Chips, batteries, and other parts needed to build the glasses might still be too large and bulky to create a better design than Google Glass. While VR headsets have entered the market, along with a HoloLens AR product from Microsoft, many companies have hit a wall when it comes to developing sophisticated and practical AR technologies.

But another, more surprising company has announced a foray into the field as well: Snap Inc., the creator of Snapchat,. The company debuted “Spectacles,” a pair of sunglasses capable of capturing short videos, in September. The more stylish, and less expensive glasses – with a ticket price of $129.99 compared to Google Glass’s $1,500 – have made the technology more appealing and attainable recently.

The soonest Apple could unveil its own glasses would be in 2018, sources say. Still, some don’t believe Apple has the capacity to become a leader in the technology, and question what role the company will play in charting new routes in the future.

“Apple has a track record of taking not-entirely-original and niche ideas and transforming them into something grander,” Shira Ovide wrote in an op-ed for Livemint. “We might look back at 2016 as a lull before a storm of ground-breaking product categories. More likely, though, Apple’s days as technology’s unrivaled innovation factory are over.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Can Apple's digital spectacles avoid the pitfalls of Google Glass?
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2016/1115/Can-Apple-s-digital-spectacles-avoid-the-pitfalls-of-Google-Glass
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe