Remember when Apple first revolutionised the world with its computers and mind-blowing commercials? And then again when it created the first smartphone almost entirely based on touchscreen – the iPhone? They are just about to do that for the third time.
Apple is now investing heavily in wearables (a type of technological device that you can wear, instead of having to carry it around). But this time it’s not a smartwatch or noise-canceling earbuds: Apple is creating the next generation of smart glasses.
If you feel like there’s a good chance a product like this will flop, think again. Remember that right before the launch of the first iPhone, in 2007, people thought that touch screens wouldn’t ever become popular. In online forums, users were saying “Touch screen buttons? BAD idea. This thing will never work.” Those people are certainly eating their words 16 years later.
The Apple Glasses have the potential to become the same type of staple product in our culture. While other competitors, like Google, have been working on similar products for a few years now, there’s a chance that Apple’s product will be so good it will revolutionise our lives, just as the iPhone did.
While the iPhone and the iPad have screens that aren’t nearly as big as our field of view, the Apple Glasses are promising to overcome that issue – its screen will occupy most of our visual field for optimal usage. This will allow users to enjoy their screens without having to look down – what we do most of the time when we work on computers or use our smartphones. Can you imagine your computer desktop occupying your entire field of view?
As Steve Jobs once said, “Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have faith in people ... and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them. Tools are just tools. They either work, or they don’t work.” In other words, there is nothing inherently good or bad about Apple Glasses. We can imagine both good outcomes and bad.
Lifting our gaze, saying goodbye to Nerd Neck
Lifting our gaze will be a significant change in how we use technology and how we interact with the world. For one, our posture will definitely get better, so goodbye nerd neck. But there are important societal changes we can also expect from the new technology.
The Apple Glasses will make it easier to integrate our virtual worlds with the real world, like an extended reality. This can have beneficial consequences. For instance, one line of research shows that using smart glasses while driving is less distracting and causes fewer accidents than using smartphones.
We'll also have greater shared reality with people around us. Instead of all looking down at our own little devices, we'll be looking up and making more frequent eye contact with others. Social connection will be enhanced as a result.
However, technologies never come without risks.
For one, imagine if a technological device like that allowed us to use visual filters – not unlike the ones that are popular on social media apps – for all the people we interact with.
So, instead of seeing people as they really are, we would see an aesthetically improved version – one chosen by the person depending on how they'd prefer to present themselves. Although seeing a better-looking world might be considered a good thing, imagine that this could also set even more unrealistic beauty standards. Just as social media has been guilty of setting unattainable beauty standards for young girls, imagine what could happen if beauty filters were part of our new augmented reality.
Like any technology, it'll be incumbent on its creators and users to maximise the upsides and minimise the downsides. But do we (society and the economy) have the right incentives to make sure this happens? We’ve seen how, without regulation and proper oversight, these technologies can run amok on people's well-being and happiness.
As the technologies become even more powerful with applications and tools like the Apple Glasses, it’s critical that we go back to the impact on its users: Are we better off for having this thing in our lives? – Inc./Tribune News Service