The last two months news and rumors about two new pieces of hardware have been the watercooler topics du jour. Google Glass and iWatch.
In the case of Google Glass we are beyond the state of rumors already. Specs seem pretty clear and a release is announced toward the end of this year. Bloggers have even had a chance to give it a spin.
The scope of the iWatch project is much less clear. If it even exists. However, considering the secrecy of Apple around its product launches this is not surprising.
So why these rumors, and why now?
Companion devices for your smartphone
If anyone attended last weeks Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, she will have noticed that smartphone technology has reached at least some local maximum. Devices made by newcomers such as Huawei or ZTE reach the same capabilities like their Apple and Samsung counterparts. The main novelties are bigger displays and incremental improvements. The only mandatory feature still missing is NFC. This industry needs some real news!
Beyond that, focus shifts from hardware to services such as information lookup, assistants, maps etc. Services include Google Now, Siri etc. Simplifying access to those is paramount for future success.
Finally, the smartphone craze with status updates, tweeting etc. has reached a new level which clearly has it’s impacts on society through people pulling out their smartphones at any possible opportunity.
Devices such as Glass or iWatch could solve these three problems. New Hardware, quick access to relevant information and services, and all this in a (stylish?) and unobtrusive way.
So the key insight here is that both devices fulfill the same function. And both devices (most probably) run as companions with your smartphone, which acts as the “brain” and “gateway” to connect to the digital online service world. The only difference is the form factor. And with the form factor there will be different features.
Some core features like a screen, which displays current information, and voice input will be shared. But what about other sensors?
Form factor and implications for visual recognition
Glass has an integrated camera. Saying “OK Glass, take a picture” allows for taking snapshots without even having to open a camera app on a phone. Already at CVPR 2012 Sebastian Thrun (of Google’s equally ambitious Self Driving cars project) reported about Glass, how it lead to another increase of pictures taken and shared (as if 300 million photos uploaded on facebook per day weren’t enough already).
This means, that the digital companion hardware devices could increase demand for visual recognition solutions further. If they include a camera. Admittedly in the case of the iWatch the form factor of a wristwatch makes this hard to imagine. But you never know what the guys in Cupertino come up with. Let’s wait and see.