The iPhone, Project Glass and the Future

Last week, the Internet was all in a tizzy about the latest video out of Google, a concept titled Project Glass. It’s this headset that puts a single screen in front of your right eye and displays information about the environment you’re in. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a moment and check out the video, it’s worth the time.

Some are saying that this idea is genius, while others are chastising it as a dumb move and a piece of vaporware. But it does open up a conversation, particularly in regards to the iPhone: What is the future of the device? 

Extending the Phone Concept

In the past decade, cell phones have come a long way. I can remember really wanting a Motorola flip phone, and back then it didn’t have texting capabilities at all. Today’s iPhone has set the standard for the mobile phone market, and now almost every one is both “smart” and has a touchscreen.

But what’s next? There has to be a logical transition between the current generation iPhone and the next generation of smartphones. Is it smaller? More compact? Embedded in your body somehow? Project Glass is one idea, and to me, it’s kind of interesting.

Project Glass as a Bluetooth Extension

At first, many thought that Project Glass was a device unto itself, and essentially a smartphone replacement. I never thought of it that way, and it turns out that I’m not the only one. Shawn Blanc wrote:

Say Project Glass were a remote control for your phone. If so, you could surely configure it to only display certain types of incoming messages, and maybe even only from certain types of people / networks. In that type of scenario, Glass would be more like a very advanced, visual version of a Bluetooth headset.

That makes a lot of sense. Some have said that the next step in the smartphone evolutionary process is related to Bluetooth. Maybe your watch syncs with your iPhone and displays caller information when the phone rings. Or maybe you’ve got some kind of always connected headset that constantly relays information to you as needed. But the headset with eyepiece hasn’t really come up, because up until this video, it seemed much more like “that’s Star Trek tech” than anything realistic. Now, I’m not so sure.

I was into single lenses before they were cool.

I was into single lenses before they were cool.

By having a pair of glasses act as a Bluetooth (or other wireless connection) tether to your iPhone, you could project all sorts of information to the user. Plus, it doesn’t need to all fit inside the glasses themselves, because the iPhone in your pocket still handles all your computing power. It just means that now you could walk around truly hands-free.

The Siri Factor

Another thing that makes this project interesting to me is that some of the technology to make this happen already exists. A lot of the Project Glass video relies pretty heavily on voice recognition, and that’s where a system like Siri would come in really handy. Now you still have to have some kind of network connection to do that, but it does make at least that part of the Project Glass concept feasible.

That said, although Siri is good, it’s still not good enough to be 100 percent accurate 100 percent of the time. Voice recognition technology has come a long way, but it still has a ways to go before something like Project Glass can become reality. That doesn’t mean that it’s far off, however.

Phones as Headsets

There is one issue here that I can’t seem to shake with this entire concept, and it comes down to human nature. Remember FaceTime? Remember how you used it to call a friend and you guys had such a good time with it? Realistically, when’s the last time you used FaceTime? For me, I can’t even remember — and I used to use it a lot.

And now, off to see Captain Picard.

And now, off to see Captain Picard.

There’s a certain social awkwardness that comes from speaking to nothing, and having a phone in your hand removes that from the equation. Ever wander the streets and see someone talking to a Bluetooth headset? Every time I do it just looks weird to me, plus I hate talking to someone who has one in, because you never know if they’re talking to you or the person on the other line. The same thing will apply with glasses, and that’s just going to be weird.

That’s not to say that Apple can’t solve that problem. And if enough people get onboard, it’s not going to look weird to see someone do it anymore — society will adjust accordingly.

Blocking Hipsters

But there’s one other big thing here that tells me that the concept will never make it to mass market, whether it’s Apple or Google that tries: These are glasses. What about people who already wear prescription lenses?

As a glasses wearer myself, I know that I have a hard time finding frames that I like and suit my face. Does this mean that I’ll have to get custom displays built into my lenses, or will the Project Glass concept go around my frames? It just doesn’t make sense to exclude such a large chunk of the population with a product, particularly for Apple. And for crying out loud, what will the Hipsters wear?


Ultimately, I think that Project Glass will never go anywhere, but if just watching the video gets people talking and coming up with ideas for what’s next, then I’m all for it.

What about you? Do you think Apple will ever come up with something like Project Glass or do you think the iPhone will go in a different direction? Let us know in the comments below.