Smartphones could become obsolete, replaced by AR glasses in only five years, or at least one Facebook exec thinks so. Among the many projects the company is working on is Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset it acquired a few years ago, so clearly it has a vested interest in getting smartphones replaced by VR or AR glasses.

 

HoloLens AR Glasses from Microsoft are in competition with Facebook, Apple, and Magic Leap products
Azminsultana / Pixabay

Talking up AR glasses at F8

According to Business Insider, Oculus Research Chief Scientist Michael Abrash made the prediction about AR glasses replacing smartphones during a speech on Wednesday at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference. He believes most people will be wearing an augmented reality gadget that looks just like a standard pair of glasses as we know them today, except that they will offer several enhancements to the wearer.

For example, the AR glasses will be able to improve the person’s memory, instantly translate foreign languages, mute distracting noises or conversations in the vicinity, or even check a baby’s temperature. Of course technology such as this is much further off, probably 10 or more years, he predicted, as major advances are still needed to make glasses such as these possible.

A “Macintosh moment” for AR glasses?

However, Abrash added that the tipping point for AR glasses becoming a more mainstream product could be as little as five years away. He suggested that the gadget may have their “Macintosh moment,” a reference to Apple’s Macs, which met their tipping point in 1984 when computers went mainstream. Essentially, what he was trying to do is set a timeline for when the shift toward the next main computing platform will begin.

The AR glasses that are currently on the market aren’t really ready for mainstream use. Google Glass was unpopular because of how clunky the device looked but also because of issues with performance and concerns about privacy. Microsoft’s Hololens was designed more for enterprise use rather than everyday wear by the average consumer. But Abrash sees all these early attempts as the beginning stages needed to move toward a product that’s ready for mainstream consumer adoption.

Really only five years away?

It’s rather hard to imagine a world where everyone chooses to wear glasses, even those who don’t need them, given that there was a time when glasses were widely shunned in favor of contact lenses. Five years certainly seems like too optimistic of a timeline because there are just too many people who won’t wear glasses. They’re not exactly convenient, after all. They get scratched or broken, and what about those who actually need real lenses in their glasses? When it’s time to get new glasses because your eyes have gotten worse, it’s not like picking out a new pair of frames.

I just see too many issues for this to be only five years away. Then again, there are plenty of companies working on technology like this, such as Apple, which is supposedly working on AR glasses with Carl Zeiss. If anyone can convince people that they should think glasses are cool, it’s Apple.