Why There Are No iGlasses (Yet)
Apple is not working on an iWatch instead of iGlasses because they want to “ease people in” to the idea of wearable computing. It’s not a new idea. They’re not working on iGlasses because the technological load is much heavier – the full feature stack requires long battery life, highly intelligent software that mostly doesn’t exist, extremely powerful hardware to run it, and light weight to put it on your face. Making good smart glasses is probably two orders of magnitude more investment than making a good smartwatch.
Furthermore, making iGlasses are hard in a way beyond the sheer amounts of cash. It requires an incredible amount of talent that I’m guessing Apple just doesn’t have today – super-sophisticated visual processing software, specifically. And anyone who does that won’t go work at Apple – they want to found a company that they can sell to Apple for incredible multiples. Which Apple can afford, but again here is why we’re talking about two orders of magnitude more investment required.
There are several aspects of the iGlasses that fall squarely within Apple’s wheelhouse – industrial design, lightweight and high-battery-endurance hardware, but those aren’t the hard part of designing iGlasses. It’s designing the software that can accomplish the core use cases of electronic glasses – picture-taking, object identification, mapping, augmented reality, and even just image magnification & low-light vision. It’s also designing that software package that can do it with minimal load on the extremely constrained batteries and hardware available in the glasses frame.
Also, as a legally blind person it is really weird to me that nobody ever mentions “vision correction” as a core use case. But such is the world in which we live.
I think Apple absolutely should make them, but it just doesn’t make sense for it to be the first mover on this. Much better for Apple to let others pave the way in the same way that it let others pave the way for the MP3 player or the smartphone. The better the ecosystem is for smartglasses, the easier and cheaper development of the iGlasses will be and the more Apple can compete on its core strengths. It doesn’t make any sense for them to lead the way, which is why they aren’t doing so.