Can smartglasses replace smartphones?

man standing on street

Photo by bruce mars on

As I previously mentioned I think that 3D visual user interface (provided as augmented or mixed reality, such as by Microsoft’s HoloLens) is going to be the future of app development. Accompanied, maybe, by AI-enabled voice assistants available in more languages. (Hey Siri, how are you?)

Why? Simply because of human nature: we never read manuals, do we? We always want to use a new tool or do a new thing with the skills that we already have, skipping learning as much as possible. Natural user interfaces are going to eventually replace most screens, just like the more natural touch behavior replaced most mice.

(Remember that when Windows 3.1 was introduced you had to run a mouse tutorial to learn how to use it? But no manual, nor tutorial was needed for touch gestures, although older people tend to need one simply because they were used to the old, more difficult, way to handle things.)

I was discussing about these topics with my brother a few days ago, and he asked me a few critical questions that (stupid me) I hadn’t considered before (I was just too holo-enthusiastic):

  • Do you think people would accept dragging glasses (even if they become lighter) everywhere, like they do now with their phones? People want to only carry small things that fit in their pockets, while any glasses need to be larger, don’t they?
  • What if some now unknown company, despite the current pioneers (or dinosaurs) in the field, will find a (lot) better way to do it some time later? For example, what if they’ll find an easy way to generate holograms directly from a phone into the air, without the need to project them to the eye?
    • This way people could share apps at runtime (!) by simply using their features together in the same room, without having to wear devices on their heads (while of course, online sharing will also be possible with two devices).

Indeed, I feel that the current version of HoloLens, and probably the following 2-3 models, will not fit into anyone’s pocket. (Except, maybe, those of Pete from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; or mine.) Later they will probably become foldable or otherwise “minimizable” to the size of a nowadays phone, though. But people may still don’t like to wear things on their heads, who knows for sure?

Moreover, the second idea – that holograms may end up displaying without eye projection – sounded even more strong to me: people would definitely like to see 3D apps directly in the air of their room more than by using any type of glasses, even if they are very light and foldable to their pocket. Because not wearing a device is more natural than wearing one, no? (You are right, though: with clothes we managed to invert this!)

Still, sharing the app runtime with others in the room might not always be a good option. A setting will need to exist to allow the user to show air holograms only for himself or herself. I think this, however, will be very difficult to achieve without some eye devices from a technical point of view, but we shouldn’t underestimate science.

A possible resolution for the issue would be to go back to smartglasses and turn them into contact lens instead of having them as a head-mounted device, which means little intrusion but otherwise a safe thing. Such holographic projectors must become really tiny standalone devices to be worn on the eye and to not require any connection to a separate machine (HoloLens does this today but it’s not small enough). If they become mass-produced, I’m sure that these lens would really revolutionize our world (again).

To conclude, I think that although glasses (as a medium size device) may not be the end of the story, and that – in the new light – they might not replace smartphones at all unless they become really tiny – it depends very much on the unpredictable crowds and on science progress – for now there isn’t a better technological way to get those natural apps live. HoloLens, like any other technology, from the first PCs to the smartphones and home assistants of today, will have their life cycle, getting us closer and closer to… well… “androidization”, or at least towards the most natural interfaces for our “external” apps, which will eventually be 3D. So I still believe that focusing on HoloLens now is important for future app development – for you to be ready when the real thing will appear.

(No, I was not referring to the Android OS above, but to the fact that eventually we’d all like apps to run directly in our brains. But I acknowledge also that it would be very, very difficult for humans to accept required body implants, and people will probably be very scared to go there, and actually would have many reasons and the right to be against it. This is why I changed the goal to be just the most natural external apps we can get.)

About Sorin Dolha

My passion is software development, but I also like physics.
This entry was posted in HoloLens, Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Add a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s