Rumors about Apple glasses have been swirling around for years now, and they have never once interested me. Why would I want to wear a computer on my face? Didn’t I get LASIK eye surgery to avoid ever again having to clumsily clean a pair of lenses with the corner of my t-shirt and my hot breath? And what about folks that stare at a computer screen all day for their job anyway…are they going to stare at that screen through a pair of Apple glasses? Or do you only wear them in certain situations…in which case, what’s the point?
Whenever I read an article about Apple’s foray into AR headsets, something about it just doesn’t feel right. No one ever makes it sound like Apple is trying to make a product for the mass market, when I strongly believe that they will only release this product if it has mass market (or potentially future mass market) appeal. That means it has to follow the same trajectory as the Apple Watch: comes in many different styles, and is meant to be something you wear all day long and charge at night. Perhaps even reliant on a companion iPhone app until the components get small enough, then made independent.
It’s one thing to have something a bit odd-looking strapped around your wrist, or sticking from your ears. It’s an entirely different thing to have something goofy smack dab in the middle of your face. These glasses are going to have to be sleek af. They’re going to have to look good on a wide range of face shapes, sizes, and skin tones, and appeal to a wide range of personalities. They’re going to have to make people who don’t currently wear glasses want to wear glasses.
But Becky, why try to appeal to everyone when they could just create some sweet futuristic sci-fi specs for influencers and nerds? Because in my heart of hearts, I believe the narrative behind Apple’s AR glasses is going to be the same as the later iterations of the watch: Health. Wellness. Accessibility. The Human Experience.
Honestly, I think these devices will be revolutionary for people who are blind, colorblind, or have low vision. Not necessarily because assistive devices for these groups don’t already exist, but because Apple will do it better, and sell it cheaper. Imagine having Apple Glasses paired with some AirPods, discreetly giving you an audio description of whatever you’re looking at. Personally, I’d love to have a pair of glasses that could help me see better when driving at night (although, who knows if we’ll be allowed to drive while wearing these things. Maybe they’ll have a do-not-disturb-while-driving mode?).
Maybe users with hearing loss could enable live captions, à la Clips. Or on the flip side, hearing folks could use the glasses to recognize sign language. Suddenly, all text responds to dynamic type. Sounds like sirens give visual cues, while sights like signage give audio cues.
Tech reporters love to go on about all the “hidden” accessibility features in iOS that are actually great for the masses, and I think Apple Glasses are going to be a whole lot of that.
People walking or running outdoors could see mile/km markers in the environment around them, and maybe even fireworks in the sky when they reach their goal. Maybe when you’re hunting around for that lost AirTag, a big giant 3D arrow appears over it when you’re close. That might sound silly, but it also kind of sounds like Apple, doesn’t it?
All of this is to say: I think the reason I haven’t been interested in all of the Apple Glasses talk is because the focus seems to be on games, notifications, and maps, which to me are the least interesting and least imaginative features of this supposedly futuristic device. There is no “killer app” because the entire purpose of the device is not just to replicate iPhone functionality, but rather to fundamentally improve the human experience in a deep and meaningful way. It won’t get there in version 1.0, but I now find myself excited about the possibilities. This isn’t about giving us a new screen. It’s about freeing us from screens, from distractions, and bringing us together again.
Let’s be honest: Apple isn’t going to make a “Dear Apple,”-style commercial about how Apple Glasses impacted people’s lives by allowing them to play Minecraft on their bathroom floor or get notifications about the newest AppleTV+ shows directly in front of their pupils. It’s going to be about how two neighbors who speak different languages are able to communicate face-to-face with real-time translations hovering nearby. It’s going to be about people with disabilities having an improved experience in the world and greater overall quality of life. It’s going to be what it’s always been about (besides profit, of course): people. All of the fun-albeit-gimmicky 3D AR stuff is just a cherry on top.