Are Apple's AR glasses going to replace our smartphones? A look into the potential future
This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Realistically, initially the AR glasses will simply be an accessory that will pair with your smartphone, like the Apple Watch. Except, to keep the AR glasses thin and light, most of the computations needed for them will be done on your iPhone, with the actual glasses serving as just the screen to display the results, which could be GPS navigations, a video playback or an incoming email.
But this is just step one in what could become the next big thing. Something that may eventually make smartphones, tablets and even TVs obsolete.
AR glasses could potentially replace your phone, tablet and TV
If you can have all of the information you normally get from your phone or smartwatch, but right in front of your eyes, would you even need your phone anymore? Probably yes at first, as in the early stages of AR glasses becoming mainstream, phones will be the "brains" behind the glasses, as we mentioned, but this may not last long. As technology keeps getting smaller, powerful smartphone internals will someday fit into the frame of AR glasses.
So if standalone AR glasses become mainstream in our not-so-distant future, would that mean current breakthrough technology, such as flexible smartphones, is just a stepping stone before something more convenient arrives? And where once we relied on keyboards and buttons, to then mostly use touchscreens, will we end up not touching anything at all, in order to interact with the virtual world that we currently carry in our pocket?
Apple's smart ring could be the next touchscreen
This is where I should note that it's not just Apple that's working on AR glasses and smart rings. Another tech giant – Facebook is also looking into this technology, and it's not a stretch to assume that Google, Samsung and others are too engaged in this quiet race towards the next big thing in consumer tech.
But we'll focus on Apple and its use for a potential smart ring, because whatever Apple does, even if it's not the first company to do it, it becomes a trend others usually follow suit. So if Apple patents a smart ring, which Apple did nearly two years ago, its competitors are surely paying close attention.
This is pure speculation on my end, and you're free to share your views on this subject in the comments section, but I would venture to guess that Apple's smart ring, if it gets released, will be used for interacting with the AR glasses. It may even come bundled with them. And I believe so, simply because it makes the most sense. We don't need a smart ring that could detect our hand gestures in order to operate our phones, smartwatches or computers, but we will need a new way of user interaction with AR glasses.
Apple likely understands that if AR glasses are to become mainstream, users will not be happy with relying on voice commands, or having to lift their arms and use touch sensors embedded into the glasses themselves, in order to operate them. A smart ring that can detect hand gestures could solve that problem.
Apple's LiDAR sensor makes more sense on AR glasses than on a phone
All the way back in 2013, Google released Google Glass, which were essentially smart glasses with a built-in camera and a single screen. The product could display smartwatch-like basic information to the user at the corner of their right eye. Despite the hype around Google Glass though, it was not a major success that caught on, and partly the reason for this was precisely its camera.
If everyone walked around in public with a camera strapped to their face, a number of privacy concerns would promptly arise, and they did in the Google Glass days. But if Apple chooses to add a LiDAR sensor to its AR glasses instead of a standard camera, society would likely be more accepting to the idea. As the LiDAR sensor can map your environment and thus help with augmented reality experiences, it would make a good (if not crucial) addition to such glasses, without being invasive to the people around you.
So, what if Apple has been prepping its LiDAR technology for just that outcome? The company tried adding it to the iPad and iPhone, and yet most of us never saw any good use for it on those devices. Could this have been a trial run for something bigger? Most likely, but we can only speculate.
What can AR glasses do and how can they benefit me?
Unlike VR (virtual reality) glasses, which completely block your view and only show you a virtual world, you will still see through AR glasses much like you can through a normal pair of eyeglasses. And like an overlay to your view, AR glasses can display virtual objects and information on top of it.
Thus, AR glasses are something that could easily be worn both out in public and at home. A good pair of AR glasses will be able to show you all the information your smartphone normally does, but right in front of you. No need to lift a physical item and point its screen towards your face. A LiDAR sensor backed with advanced algorithms could make virtual objects and information appear to you as if they're part of the real world, so ideally, the experience will feel natural.
Imagine that you're looking at an empty table, or a plain wall, but with just a gesture you could pull up a virtual TV that will get fixed onto said table or wall, playing your favorite YouTube channel. Next to that virtual TV you can open a web browser and surf PhoneArena on another screen that's fixed to the same wall. Or, you can make those virtual items follow you wherever you go. It sounds really good in concept, and the first-gen AR glasses our favorite smartphone makers release may not be that polished or capable yet, but in a few years we'll surely get there.
The question is, who will try to introduce AR glasses to the world first, and how successful that attempt will be? If Apple releases a polished pair of AR glasses soon, even if they're not as advanced as we just talked, it will start a trend that may lead to this future of virtual screens and no physical interaction.
So, what do you think about this potential future? Is it plausible? Or do you believe that AR glasses won't be the next big thing, but instead folding or rollable smartphones? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.