The internet has been abuzz with news from a strange source: Apple Glasses, the yet-to-be-announced augmented reality (AR) wearable tech that has been officially "predicted" by Gene Munster of Loupventures, a highly regarded analyst among Apple enthusiasts.
Though the Apple corporation itself hasn't said anything official about the existence (or nonexistence) of plans for Apple Glasses, Munster says the new product will be available by 2020 and will take over a significant portion of the market share currently occupied by the ubiquitous iPhone.
The prediction isn't without basis: A wearable AR product -- Google Glass -- ; and , the appetite for virtual reality (VR) and AR technology . The awkward Google Glass may have been a tech reach that hadn't come down enough in size or price to be a serious option for most users. Add to this strong recent rumors that Apple has acquired a German AR company -- and the speculation about Apple Glasses becomes that much more credible.
Still, whether or not they're actually coming along, are these Apple Glasses even a good idea?
If Steve Jobs were alive, he might be able to share some insight. Sadly, he isn't, so Apple's tiller is now in the hands of current CEO Tim Cook, who has some wearable tech experience under his belt already with the Apple Watch, a wireless iPhone enhancement with a few added capabilities like fitness tracking.
Despite the new look, though, the wrist-positioned device allows users to do pretty much the same things they were already doing on their iPhones. The leap was calculated: Developer Kevin Lynch has said that the goal of the watch was to allow users to engage with their phones "in a way that's a little more human, a little more in the moment when [they're] with somebody," according to Wired. That is, in a way that was both more accessible and less intrusive than the Hershey bar-sized device with which the world had become so obsessed.
The next technological leap is therefore pretty simple: Remove the phone from the wrist and put it directly in front of the eye.
The obstacles to Apple Glasses would be the same as what kept Google Glass from success -- namely aesthetics, price and battery life. And because Apple has always striven to make these obstacles are only magnified. Batteries have only gotten a little smaller. Munster's prediction puts Apple Glasses at $1300 at launch, not much less than Google Glass. And though the iPhone's consistent, minimalist styling has made it more of a status symbol than a bore, it's dubious whether the same would apply to a piece of "gear" users wear on their face -- presumably almost all the time. And if the selection at the local optometrist is any indication, one model might not cut it.
Add to this the fact that AR and VR technology are still in their infancy and in some cases can actually make people physically ill -- and the potential for iPhone-like success for Apple Glasses becomes rather limited. Consumers have spent the last decade getting used to their digital Hershey bars -- and they like them. If a radically new interface like the glasses Munster envisions comes to pass, users will be split down the middle, with those who prefer the new interface on one side of the fence and those who prefer the old on the other.
If such a new technology is truly going to take the world by storm, it must bring an entirely new type of experience to the table. Like personal computers in the '80s or the rise of the internet in the '90s -- or the modern smartphone in 2007 -- it must change the paradigm by which people interact with the digital world. Whether that technology will come in the form of a pair of nifty glasses for your face or something else entirely remains to be seen.
The 12-year cycle is almost over for , and what rises next may not be as simple as a new interface. Whether Munster is right about Apple Glasses or not, he may be right about one thing: New technology is coming, and one way or another -- it's probably going to blow our minds.