Will AR Smart Glasses Replace Smartphones and Become our Personal Buddy Bots?
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007, no one understood at the time how disruptive that device would be to existing technology. Now with rumors of Apple launching their augmented reality (AR) smart glasses products next year, people are speculating about how disruptive this technology will be.
Since iPhones are one of Apple’s primary revenue streams, they may be cautious about releasing a product that may encroach on their own turf. However, as we’ll suggest below, it may not be an either/or situation for users.
At the same time, Google and Meta plan to launch their smart glasses next year, so the competition is already heating up.
AR not VR
These upcoming, early-generation AR smart glasses won’t be projecting metaverses like virtual reality (VR) headsets. They’ll have functionality that’s similar to the superimposed, heads-up, transparent displays available on the windshields of fighter jets and high-end automobiles. They will include augmented-by-wireless mini-microphones and speakers for an integrated multi-sensory experience.
They’ll present information at eye and ear level. Distracting, maybe, but the technology won’t block out the real world like VR. Thus, AR and VR glasses/headsets will be distinct for the time being given that VR requires far more computing power and, therefore, larger devices.
In the future, though, AR and VR glasses will be combined into a single, stylish, wrap-around facial accessory and users will seamlessly navigate between the two features and the two worlds.
“Stop Looking at Your Phone!”
Parents soon will have to find a new scold phrase to prompt their kids to get offline at the dinner table. And getting them offline will become even more difficult as young users migrate from smartphones to smart glasses.
Nearly all the apps that fill the screens of our handhelds will be available on AR smart glasses: cameras, social media, music, texting, newsfeeds, online shopping, audio and visual streaming, recording, and, of course, audio phone calling – all enabled by self-contained wireless connectivity.
I don’t see a way, though, to conduct video calls using AR glasses given that the device is located so close to the person’s face.
The devices perched on our noses and tucked behind our ears will be wearable minicomputers, complete with speakers near the ears or even on attached earbuds. We’ll soon get the hang of giving voice commands, pointing with our eyeballs, and touching buttons or swiping on the stems of the glasses without a second thought as we navigate our social and professional life on the go.
Seven Best-Use Cases and Features for AR Smart Glasses
As I imagine how smart glasses will change everyday life, I can’t help but think about some of the ideal functional features I hope and assume they’ll offer.
- When you’re introduced to someone, their name and image will register in your contacts database, and thanks to facial recognition software, the name will pop up on your heads-up display when you see them again 10 minutes or a week later.
- As you pass a restaurant, the name and location will be enough to cue up their menu and their daily specials right before your eyes.
- AR smart glasses will be available with corrective vision so there won’t be a need to “stack glasses.”
- Smart glasses will automatically adjust lighting contrast and font colors to ensure the projected content is readable in all lighting conditions.
- Online maps and directions will show users the upcoming turns and routes superimposed onto the road they see ahead of them.
- Our heads-up screens will include a virtual assistant avatar we can summon with that familiar “Hey …” The avatar will be at our disposal to access apps and help keep the experience as hands-free as possible.
- The visual experience will be transferrable to specialized glass in a number of settings – windshields and windows for example. Think of it as a blue-tooth-like ability to project the heads-up “desk-top” to a more distant spot to give our eyes a rest.
A Choice in Devices
Back to our initial question: Will AR smart glasses replace smartphones? I believe the more relevant questions are what portion of our online time will be spent utilizing smart glasses and how soon will that happen?
How much we use our smart glasses will be more a matter of human nature than technology. There’s always inertia to overcome to put aside something familiar to learn an unfamiliar system and at first seemingly complex. We can adapt to incremental changes in successive versions of our handheld devices, for example, but switching to a new system altogether is going to be a hill too far to climb for some.
The 20% of us who are early IT adopters and tend to dive right in will be in line in 2023 and 2024 when the enhanced smart glasses products come out (rudimentary versions with limited functionality are available now).
The 50% who tend to wait for technology to evolve and come down in price and who can be peer-pressured into switching to smart glasses will follow within a few more years.
The remainder may not see the need to make the transition as long as technology companies still provide the handheld option – and I believe the major manufacturers will do exactly that.
After all, many of us own tablets (for utility) as well as smartphones (for convenience) and use each at different times for different functions.
There’ll be a time and place for smart glasses. After all, we’d legitimately feel a little self-conscious, and it would seem intrusive to dictate a text message in public.
And it may appear somewhat creepy to seemingly stare into space while doing some web searching … unless we can superimpose a graphic on the outside of the lens that says something like, “I’m not staring, I’m googling.”
Pushing the Envelope
Eventually, we will move from smart glasses to smart contact, perhaps using AR contact lenses that have additional capabilities built into them like zoom focusing and peripheral vision object detection. Since I’m not a design team insider, it’s hard to determine which features may be considered reasonable and which ones won’t.
Yet, even with smart contacts, it’s difficult to imagine an “either-or” situation between smartphones and smart contacts as each of us knows what it’s like to correct that stubborn text message that voice recognition can’t quite understand and we’re forced to tap out the letters manually.
I’m also intrigued by the option to move from augmented to more immersive technologies. In fact, the scale of overlays could range from black and white to scanning body energies, to “lose-the-clothes x-ray vision, to “I want to buy those shoes” buy-now buttons. And immersive medical glasses may allow doctors and nurses to probe the inner function of specific organs instantly.
Smart Glasses as our Personal AI Buddy Bots
The average person today consumes information over 12 hours every day, but we currently have no way of measuring the salient pieces of wisdom being added to our working memory.
In an ed-tech-driven future, smart glasses will likely be used to see what we’re seeing, hear what we’re hearing, and use additional mnemonic queues to feel, touch, and taste everything we’re experiencing.
I like to think of this pair of smart glasses that we talk back and forth to as our AI Buddy Bot.
Using a conversational interface, the Buddy Bot will develop a friendly rapport with each person, responding appropriately to positive exchanges filled with jokes, happiness, and moments of excitement, as well as negative exchanges filled with anger, trash talk, and hurtful comments.
Over time, the AI Buddy-Bot will become our personal buddy, our best friend, that person we can tell your most intimate secrets to, confide in, and share your hopes and dreams.
It will become our personal therapist, our cheerleader, our protector, the guardian of our privacy, and our conversational coach, often finishing our sentences with the words we’re struggling to speak.
It will know us intimately from our deepest flaws to our greatest successes and everything in between. It will simultaneously become the friend we always wish we had, the source of unlimited ideas and new possibilities, and our single most valuable possession.
Eventually, we will add additional bots like AI assessment bots, AI coach-bots, and AI teacher-bot to enhance the self-learning experience, but I’ll talk more about that later.
As with every tech evolution, there will be advantages and disadvantages to every new ability. But rest assured, over the long run, today’s switch to smart glasses in the future will be viewed as little more than a single step on a 10,000-step journey, a journey to a place we can’t yet understand.