Can Apple succeed where Google couldn't in bringing a wearable face computer to market? Bloomberg reported Monday that while this is "still in an exploration phase," sources within or close to Apple say they're already talking to suppliers about a pair of glasses that would connect wirelessly to the iPhone, which we might see in stores as soon as 2018.
The project is top secret and Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment on the report, but Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports that "Apple is looking for it's next big hit. They had the iPhone in 2007, the iPad in 2010, and the Apple Watch in 2015, and they're looking for what's next. And a pair of wearable glasses that synchronize to an iPhone seems where the industry is going in terms of all this talk of augmented reality, wearable computing, and miniaturized components."
This news comes on the heels of the first sales of SnapChat's Spectacles last week, with SnapChat rebranding itself as Snap Inc. and pivoting a bit into the hardware market positioning themselves, as was reported in September, less as a social media platform and more as a new generation of camera company.
The devices are sunglasses and decidedly more fashionable (and less surreptitious) than Google Glass, with a 115-degree camera built in that is supposed to resemble a person's natural field of vision. With the push of a button, Spectacles capture 10-second snippets of video that can be then transferred to the Snapchat app as Memories, and in contrast to the $1500 initial pricetag of Google Glass, they cost just $130 a pair.
Should Spectacles turn out to be a breakout hit, that would put Apple about two years behind in creating a competitive product, although Apple may be less interested in the device as a camera and more as an augmented reality component.
One Bloomberg source points to CEO Tim Cook's decision to move into the realm of augmented reality (AR) with the purchase of several companies in recent years, including PrimeSense (which is behind Microsoft’s Kinect gaming system), and AR startups Metaio Inc. and Flyby Media Inc. In a July conference call with analysts, Cook said, "AR can be really great, and we have been and continue to invest a lot in this. We are high on AR for the long run."
But, Cook added, "AR is going to take a while, because there are some really hard technology challenges there, but it will happen in a big way, and we will wonder when it does how we ever lived without it."
What would Apple's glasses look like? According to Quartz, "Apple has explored at least one design for its glasses that looks similar to some popular sunglasses already on the market... Warby Parker."