Could the Emergence of Smart Glasses Retire our Smartphones?
The rise of the smartphone has been nothing short of meteoric. The watershed moment of the arrival of the iPhone 3 in 2008 sparked a love affair that’s seen millions forge an inseparable connection to their handheld devices which can help them to explore the internet, play games, engage in online banking, stream content, and connect with anyone in the world. Now, some of the world’s most prominent executives are suggesting that the smartphone may soon become a thing of the past.
With the arrival of augmented reality eyewear and the metaverse, handheld connectivity may ultimately give way to hands-free devices in the form of augmented reality eyewear and headsets. These glasses will be capable of performing the tasks that we’ve become accustomed to doing on smartphones in a more immersive and intuitive way.
Packed with cameras, speakers, and microphones, smart glasses can be every bit as responsive as smartphones – they can even be controlled via eye-tracking in an innovation that phones haven’t replicated.
Newer pieces of smart eyewear include waveguide displays that essentially bends projected light before our eyes, which enables us to see a visual field that can deliver a crisp resolution and a greater field of view.
The most significant innovation that could propel smart glasses towards mainstream acceptance, however, is its incorporation of augmented reality – or mixed reality – technology. This tech can help to deliver actionable information about objects in our line of sight and are capable of functioning as a computer monitor delivered directly into our line of sight. As we can see from the chart above, the AR glasses market is set to grow significantly over the coming years, with nearly 7 million units set to be sold in 2024.
CEOs Prepare for an Augmented Future
Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg ramped up his efforts to accommodate the growing smart glasses ecosystem in Meta’s upcoming eyewear products.
“Great to be back in Milan to discuss plans for new smart glasses with Leonardo Del Vecchio and the EssilorLuxottica team,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. “Here Leonardo is using a prototype of our neural interface EMG wristband that will eventually let you control your glasses and other devices.
Significantly, Zuckerberg confirmed that Meta is angling towards adopting EMG (electromyography) technology in the form of a wristband that monitors electrical motor nerve signals traveling through the wearer’s wrist to convert into digital commands that can operate its future eyewear models.
This quest for greater levels of control is a clear attempt to improve Meta’s current smart glasses range, called Ray-Ban Stories, to give users a similar level of functionality that smartphones offer.
NOKIA CEO Pekka Lundmark has a keen eye on similar levels of innovation and recently suggested that the eventual arrival of the next generation of data, 6G will spell the end of the smartphone, with smart glasses and other wearables becoming powerful enough to take over.
“By then, definitely the smartphone as we know it today will not anymore be the most common interface. Many of these things will be built directly into our bodies,” Lundmark explained.
The emergence of AR glasses also offers a solution to the fact that vision can be a very subjective sense for different people. With as much as 75% of the global population requiring some form of vision correction, smart glasses can be a great opportunity for users to receive adaptive treatment for problems with sight.
In January 2022, Apple filed a patent for ‘Tunable and foveated lens systems’, which enables smart glasses to adjust their lenses to provide vision correction. Using a stack of liquid crystal and non-liquid crystal displays, Apple proposes that its glasses operate in a similarly adaptive way to how Varilux progressive lenses behave in smoothly adjusting to different circumstances and environments to offer a smooth and clear quality of vision.
The technology could even use eyesight tracking technology to adapt to cater to whether the user is looking at an object in the distance or something close up. The patent could pave the way for the widespread adoption of smart glasses as a functional and viable alternative to prescription lenses.
The Case Against the Retirement of the Smartphone
Despite the vast potential of smart glasses with augmented reality capabilities, not all company decision-makers agree that they will ultimately replace the smartphone.
When asked about a future integrated with the metaverse, Motorola’s head of customer experience, Ruben Castano said: “At the center of it will always be the smartphone. The smartphone is a very personal device. It’s something that you always carry with you.”
With the arrival of the metaverse, we’re likely to see one of the biggest technological disruptions in history. Mounting evidence suggests that many tech leaders believe the future of Web3.0 will rely on the development of intuitive smart glasses. Whether or not there’s also room for the smartphone remains to be seen. But with the hands-free interconnectivity and health benefits attached to adaptive smart glasses, the future certainly looks bright for the eyewear industry.