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Why Apple will make smart glasses

Mike Elgan | Jan. 23, 2017
Instead of making unfashionable smart glasses, Apple will make fashionable glasses smart.

It's easy to dismiss the speculation that Apple is working on smart glasses.

It's hard to picture Apple selling smart glasses. But it's also hard to picture them not doing it.

If smart glasses become a popular and mainstream consumer electronics category, Apple will almost be required to enter the market as a fiduciary responsibility to Apple shareholders.

Consider the plight of poor Apple. Smartphone margins are shrinking. The tablet market is flabby. Smartwatches aren't panning out as a mainstream platform. Apple TV is still not going to bring in huge profits. So Apple has to adapt and keep up with the evolution of consumer technology to continue to dominate the market as well as secure its growth.

Also, the choice of smartphone in the future may be dictated by the use of smart glasses. If mainstream smart glasses require an Android phone, Apple could lose market share.

What's certain is that Apple is working on smart glasses.

Bloomberg reported in November that Apple was thinking about entering the "digital glasses" market. That report was based on anonymous sources, who said Apple is considering glasses that would go on sale next year and "show images and other information in the wearer’s field of vision, and may use augmented reality."

odg R-8 smart glasses ODG

ODG's R-8 smart glasses give you what looks like a 90-inch 3D screen that appears to float 10 feet in front of you. The glasses also have two 1080p cameras. Apple would never make anything like this.

The Financial Times reported early last year that Apple was building a large team focused on augmented and virtual reality, and had poached employees from Microsoft and Lytro.

Intriguingly, Apple has made some augmented reality-based company acquisitions. Apple bought PrimeSense, which makes the sensor technology in Microsoft's Kinect. They also nabbed augmented reality startups Metaio, Faceshift, Emotient and Flyby. AR-related patents by Apple go back a decade.

And tech blogger and evangelist Robert Scoble posted a rumor on Facebook that Apple may be working with Carl Zeiss on smart glasses. (I told you about Carl Zeiss Smart Optics technology in this space a year ago.)

All that planning, thinking and spending may pay off for Apple when smart glasses go mainstream.

And when I say mainstream, I mean totally mainstream. What if nearly all glasses were smart glasses?

The company that makes your glasses is getting 'smart'
The signs of the mainstreaming of augmented and mixed reality are everywhere. The biggest one yet happened earlier this week when French lens giant Essilor merged with Italy's eyeglass behemoth Luxottica in a $53 billion deal that will result in the world's largest glasses company, to be called EssilorLuxottica.


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