The new frontier of smart technology is headed toward devices that eliminate the hassle of being handheld. Google announced its in-the-works augmented-reality (AR) glasses — called Google Glass — in April of 2012. Glass gained even more publicity in September, when designer Diane Von Furstenburg put them on her runway models to record the show from their viewpoint. In late December, rumors surfaced that Apple is working on its own piece of wearable tech: an iWatch, a watch that will connect to the iPhone using Bluetooth.
Apple is not the first company to begin developing a watch to sync with a smartphone: Pebble raised over $10 million in a Kickstarter campaign for a wristwatch that syncs with the iPhone. Sony also developed a watch that serves as a second display screen for Android without any input capabilities. But if the rumors are true, Apple’s entry into the game would mean that the wearable tech competition is not a short-term fad.
The watch move may be a smart one. Critics correctly point out several obstacles to the success of Google Glass. A plethora of privacy and legal issues will stem from the fact that such devices can photograph and videotape others without their knowledge. Users might be concerned about their own privacy as well. Consumers are already upset about Google having access to their geographical location and browsing history. Glasses worn throughout the day that capture and record what they are looking at will not assuage those fears, to say the least. Even if the privacy issues are resolved, the technical ones remain: producing lightweight, wearable glasses with embedded smartphone features will cost enough to drive away the average consumer, and there currently exists no widely-recognized professional need for smart glasses. And the technology itself has, it seems, a long way to go — Google has pushed back the release date of Glass twice already.
There is another way, as indicated by the rumored iWatch, or by the activities of companies such as Jawbone and Misfit, which are experimenting with devices that can be worn as jewelry. Despite the built-in advantages of doing wearable tech as biometric wristbands or data-fed watches, Apple might well be looking, long-term, at introducing AR glasses to compete with Google’s. Especially given the history of the two companies vying to release different versions of almost identical products. Even if the end products become unusable for the majority of consumers, glasses could be of use for professionals such as filmmakers, photographers, and researchers. All of which means innovations in wearable tech will be fascinating to watch in the upcoming year.