The Wall Street Journal is getting excited about Apple’s (unannounced) glasses

From Christopher Mims’ “Apple’s iPhone Successor Comes Into Focus” in Saturday’s paper:

If you thought the hullabaloo about Facebook’s virtual reality, and the metaverse was a lot, wait till next year. Apple is expected to unveil in 2022 something at least as attention getting: a head-mounted device that has the potential to be the next biggest thing after the iPhone.

Meta Platforms, as Facebook’s parent is now known, is focused on an alternative to our current reality, one we can disappear into on our couch. Apple is raising the stakes with what analysts say are plans for a headset or smart glasses that will offer access to a layer of information, objects and data spread across our view of the real world like so much digital pixie dust—a so-called augmented reality, or AR. While the company hasn’t disclosed its plans, analysts and other industry insiders expect Apple’s first AR device could be announced by the end of 2022.

Chief Executive Tim Cook has been talking about augmented reality for so long that it’s easy to forget just how big it could be for Apple, and for the entire tech industry. Depending on which expert you listen to, AR is either destined to be one more way we access the internet, or will subsume our experience of it completely and be an essential gateway to the metaverse that so many companies claim they are now building. In either case, the impact of an AR headset and the market for it could be huge, and several factors—from its growing prowess developing microchips to its army of loyal app developers—suggest Apple is uniquely positioned to build a moat around its AR business rather quickly, just as it did with the iPhone.

My take: In the battle between virtual and augmented, reality will win — whatever Apple does or doesn’t do.

See also: Mark Gurman pushes back his ship dates for Apple glasses and self-driving car

12 Comments

  1. I’m reminded of Vladimir Nabokov’s famous aphorism: “Reality'” is the one word that should always appear in quotation marks.

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    December 4, 2021
  2. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    “My take: In the battle between virtual and augmented, reality will win — whatever Apple does or doesn’t do.”

    Amen brother, and let’s hope it continues to.

    I’ve said many times on this blog that a big caveat about the “in-your-face” AR product is that it is “on-your-face” — a delicate and cautious piece of real estate directly affecting one’s persona and soul.

    Most all of us have subsumed our lives with our screen devices to a tremendous degree already; hence the most successful product in the world. It’s augmented our personal reality with omnipotent impunity. Whether it’s interrupted and distorted your reality seems to be more of an inside problem than an outside one and should not be construed as such — as it often is.

    Allowing this “augmentation” to continuously reside on that precious bit of soul self-image, seems to be a play on stealing a bit of it — fraught with caution and misdirection.

    “…that has the potential to be the next biggest thing after the iPhone.”

    Currently we can easily choose to “dive in” or not by presenting the data to our face as needed. Planting it perpetually IN your face is maybe going a bit too far.

    As PED implies, reality really is superior for it is more soulful.

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    December 4, 2021
  3. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    There is no spoon.

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    December 4, 2021
  4. Tommo_UK said:
    AR glasses will face the highest resistance to mass adoption of any consumer electronics to date in my opinion. I know Apple is experimenting with them, using mule frames and external processing boxes as test beds to refine the technology and UI but as to whether we’ll see them rolled out in the shape analysts and the media expect, doubtful.

    Wearables on your wrist is one thing. The watch is discrete and useful. Something sat on your face, unless it’s a loved one, is unlikely to achieve widespread adoption.

    Excuse the crude humour but if I was presented with the mock-ups being suggested, I’d rather pass on AR glasses.

    For that matter outside of quite clearly defined settings such as healthcare, sports, industrial uses etc, the argument for having to wear your iPhone on your face all the time is spurious at best.

    Building the technology into ski goggles or sports sunglasses or other settings-oriented use cases is another matter though.

    As far as I’m aware the effort and development going into AR has a lot of commonality with the research Apple is conducting in vehicle technology (note: this extends beyond just a “car”).

    So far I’ve read nothing but years’ worth of bland predictable and unlikely speculation. I don’t think we’ll see AR glasses sold for mass adoption from Apple anytime soon but I do expect the technology to be continuously refined by partnering with companies and organisations whose use cases particularly lend themselves to develop the UI and technology involved.

    Meantime the high pitched whine for a “next big thing” flies in the face of consistent and astounding growth as the iPhone, Mac and services LOBs continue to expand their reach, widening the moat yet further.

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    December 4, 2021
    • Kirk DeBernardi said:
      Tommo —

      Love the crude humor — if done with taste, as you have.

      (My own bit of crude humor.)

      😉

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      December 4, 2021
    • Dan Scropos said:
      “AR glasses will face the highest resistance to mass adoption of any consumer electronics to date in my opinion.”

      If the primary function is to enhance vision, I don’t see mass adoption being an issue. 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from some sort of vision impairment. The “always on” feature would simply be for vision correction, with augmented reality being optional.

      Then there are industries that need advanced vision. Medical, surgical and educational possibilities are endless. Law enforcement also comes to mind.

      I just don’t see mass adoption as any sort of obstacle.

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      December 4, 2021
      • Tommo_UK said:
        Apple won’t launch AR glasses solely for those needing prescription lenses so those of us needing glasses who like this feature are out of luck. As goes for most niches, however large. Selling something you need to keep on your face or take on and off is a non-starter unless in specialised settings as I’ve already suggested. They might be gearing for gaming to provide a HUD overlay while playing a regular game on a screen as opposed to full on VR.
        Lots of use settings but not that all-encompassing one which widespread adoption requires.

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        December 5, 2021
  5. Aaron Belich said:
    Until Apple glasses, if battery powered, can function “all day” long, including power sips from whatever battery case they will ship with, Apple will not ship them. It’s always been as simple as that. Apple prefers that you engage with this new product as long as possible. So the ergonomics and efficiency of the device do not align with this “all day” requirement, Apple can’t ship it.

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    December 4, 2021
  6. Robert Paul Leitao said:
    In the meantime, I’m really enamored with my iPhone 13 Pro Max. It’s an amazing handset and is a nice step up from the iPhone 12 Pro Max I handed in, even though it’s in a similar form. I’ll wait to see what Apple delivers as an AR solution. It’s not critical at this time.

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    December 4, 2021
  7. Alessandro Luethi said:
    «Ceci n’est pas une pipe.»

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    December 4, 2021
  8. Kathy Corby said:
    For those of us forced by the cruel process of aging to wear reading glasses, it would be a wonderful boon if Apple could make the glasses adjust focus to whatever occupies the gaze of the user. I think that would guarantee massive uptake.

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    December 5, 2021
    • David Drinkwater said:
      Bending light (the field *wince* of optics) with electricity is possible, but I think the technology to do that variably ion response to surroundings is really nowhere close to present. We can drive films and polarizers to reduce transmission of light, but to actually change its direction, which is what lenses do, would require some more like a helmet than a pair of glasses.

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      December 5, 2021

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