Apple effect

What Apple needs to get right to make its rumoured smart glasses a success

Apple can learn a lot from Google Glass and other augmented reality glasses.

The Apple rumour mill is spinning with gossip that the company is reportedly developing and testing a set of augmented reality glasses. There’s little we know for certain about the plans, and the firm has reportedly not made a final decision about whether to commit to releasing a “smart glasses” product. But Apple has been enthusiastically recruiting engineers with expertise in both augmented and virtual reality.

There is strong speculation that any new wearable device from Apple will integrate with an iPhone and need one to operate, just as the Apple Watch does. Another rumour suggests Apple will add augmented reality capabilities to its iPhone camera so that it could recognise objects it filmed, including people’s faces. This raises the question of whether Apple would develop an additional wearable device that risked cannibalising a technology built into its flagship product.

But if the rumours of Apple’s smart glasses are true, there is plenty the company could learn from previous, largely unsuccessful attempts to make a head-mounted augmented reality display. When Google announced it was ceasing sales of its own Google Glass spectacles, some saw it as the start of a new phase of product development while others pronounced it a failure.

Privacy problems  

Some of the key reasons why Glass was ultimately unsuccessful related to concerns about privacy and security. And there is little or no evidence those concerns have lessened in the last few years. With increasing numbers of reports about cameras being hijacked by hackers, fraudsters and even blackmailers, any new smart glasses could be seen as a window into our world for criminals.

There would certainly be doubts about giving a corporation direct access to what we see with our own eyes. Trust will be a key issue, and is still low between corporations and the public. As even the iPhone is no longer the legendary unhackable device it was once seen as, Apple would need to fundamentally boost consumer trust and confidence for it to win customers over.

Other reasons cited for the failure of similar products included cost, limited battery life, our attachment to mobile phones and unwearable design. Alongside smartphones, virtual reality headsets, smart watches and so on, smart glasses may be one gadget too many, especially as Apple entry level prices are still high for many consumers. Consumers have also been bruised by under-performing and even dangerous batteries, and smart glasses would be another device that drains the iPhone and needs its own charging.

In terms of design, many users ditched Google Glass because it was a long way from being seen as cool. Apple’s product will need to be something we actually want to wear when we are on pubic view. The company may do well to root a new spectacle product in the functional minimalism of its smartphone and tablet ranges. Yet while that design ethos has lifted Apple to the number one spot in the last decade, those designs are now also being seen as becoming too safe and repetitive.

Microsoft Hololens: who cares how it looks when it works? Microsoft
Microsoft Hololens: who cares how it looks when it works? Microsoft

Microsoft is taking another tack with its HoloLens. In contrast to Google Glass, the device opts for an overtly tech look, an unashamedly prosthetic, even cyborg device. As a result, early reviews of the Hololens look past fashion design towards its potential for radical disruption.

There may be another more fundamental difficulty for Apple, however. Some commentators are suggesting current augmented reality technology is still too difficult for us to physically interact with. Apple would have to convince users that their new glasses are easy to use and will not lead us into brick walls or awkward interactions with family, colleagues, friends and strangers.

All this is important because Apple has been trading on long-past acts of creativity for years now. Judged by the mixed reaction to the Apple Watch, it’s not yet clear that wearables can change this situation or that a new set of smart glasses will represent a genuine disruption. There’s a chance that attempting to succeed with augmented reality will be seen as another “me-too” behaviour for the company.

Yet if Hololens or other products help augmented reality’s day to arrive sooner, and if Apple gets things right in terms of design, user experience, confidence and trust, it could be a breakthrough for the company.

Paul Levy, Senior Researcher in Innovation Management, University of Brighton.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

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2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.