The Future of Smart Glasses

With so many smart glasses showing up as prototypes and, sometimes, as finished consumer products, we have to ask ourselves: Where is this all going?

Apple Smart Glass Concept inspired by Apple’s Magic Mouse.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says that smart glasses could be as transformative as smartphones were. The company has many smart glass patents with hundreds of engineers working on the project.

Bloomberg reported that Apple has been working on a smart-glasses project under the internal name "T288” and could ship its first smart glass products within 3-5 years. According to the report, the project is working toward stand-alone glasses, which don’t require a smartphone as the "engine" and screen.

Apple’s project is working toward stand-alone glasses, which don’t require a smartphone as the "engine" and screen, according to the report. (The article isn’t specific about whether Apple’s smart-glasses project will enable stand-alone operation and connectivity, as the Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS + Cellular can.)

In the past, smart glasses were sold to the public on the idea that they would offer all sorts of technical innovations, while still looking pretty innocuous. That was one of the major needs for wearable smart tech.

Get ready, because every imaginable variant of smart glasses will become available over the next 10 years. Those that look like ordinary glasses that you wear all the time and others that are obtrusive "goggles" that you put on and use actively.

The purpose of smart glasses will be to place computer-generated content in the user’s field of view or ears. This content includes augmented reality, mixed reality, virtual reality, 360 video, heads-up displays and contextual audio. Instead of looking at a rectangular screen, we’ll see words and pictures and objects and virtual environments by simply looking around. We’ll be able to have many different experiences.

We can look forward to wearing smart glasses every day all day in the future. In other words, "glasses" — prescription glasses, reading glasses and sunglasses — will gain smart options. "Smart frames" will be offered for sale at the optometrist’s office. Over time, ordinary, everyday smart glasses will gain ever more sophisticated capabilities.

The most interesting smartphone on the market at present is Apple’s iPhone X. The phone takes a huge step in the direction of transitioning from smartphones to smart glasses.

The iPhone X comes out of the box with two telling Apple-created features: Animoji and Apple Clips 2.0. These are fun trivial distractions for consumers but for Apple, they represent the future of Apple smart glasses, to a certain degree.

Animoji are cartoon-character avatars that move and make facial expressions that mimic the users’ in real time. Apple Clips 2.0 enables users to change the background during selfie videos. But viewed through the lens of the coming smart glasses revolution, what’s really going on with these "trivial apps"?

The purpose of smart glasses is to combine the real with the virtual. Both these apps do this. Animoji take the user’s real voice, head movements and facial expression, and applies them to a virtual self — a cartoon character.

Apple Clips 2.0 places the real person in a virtual background — or places a digitally modified real person into a virtual background. These apps use the special hardware in the iPhone X. The technology behind this feat is tiny and fits into the array of cameras and sensors in the "notch" of the iPhone X.

But the most important thing to know is that smart glasses are already here. They’ll improve to the point of becoming mainstream in both everyday life and in the enterprise. And the direction for smart glasses is already being set in leading edge smartphones like Apple’s iPhone X.

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