So far, the road that will lead us to wear smart glasses on a daily basis has followed two very different paths. On the one hand, i visori come Google Glass o Magic Leap One: already equipped with important features in augmented reality (the technology that superimposes digital elements on the physical world), but with too bulky dimensions. On the other hand, glasses with a practically indistinguishable appearance from normal ones (such as the Ray-Ban Stories created in collaboration with Facebook), but which almost only allow you to take pictures or shoot short videos.
Ray-Ban Stories: here are the smart glasses from Facebook and Luxottica
by Bruno Ruffilli
The third way
There is only one product that, at the moment, seems to have identified a third way: the Spectacles 4, presented for the first time in May 2021. With a weight of only 134 grams (compared to about 50 for a pair of normal glasses) and a decidedly cyberpunk style design, the viewers created by the Snapchat labs are the only ones that combine an almost normal appearance with real augmented reality lenses, as well as giving the possibility of taking photos and videos to be published on the social network by 320 million users.
Unlike the previous (and unsuccessful) versions of Spectacles, this new edition has not been put on sale, but is intended only for a limited number of developers who have received it to test its limits and potential. And what are these potentials? Already today, the Spectacles allow – to mention only the functionalities that we have had the opportunity to experience firsthand – to superimpose flowery meadows on the floor of the house and to see digital butterflies alight on our handto project the solar system into a room, to escape from zombies coming out of the walls, to paint digital graffiti on physical walls and other such games.
For the moment, therefore, these are fun curiosities related mostly to entertainment. But if things go according to forecasts, tomorrow we will use these viewers in everyday life, thus eliminating the mediation between the physical world and the digital world represented by the smartphone. And so, the directions of Google Maps will appear directly on the asphalt, a digital arrow will show us where the product we are looking for at the supermarket is, the contacts on social networks that we will meet along the way could carry a “tag” bearing their name and historic buildings could be enriched with digital information that appears on demand or even show how they have changed over time by overlaying their current physical version with digital replicas of the past.
At the same time, the advertising posters could be personalized on the basis of our interests (as is already the case on the various online platforms), while notifications from social networks or emails they will appear directly before our eyes. It is a bit of the world – as fascinating as it is disturbing – that was imagined a few years ago since designer Keiichi Matsuda in the well-known Hyper-reality video.
The alternative to the metaverse
In some ways, it is therefore one opposite technology to the metaverse. Whereas the future imagined by Mark Zuckerberg aims to exploit virtual reality to immerse the human being in a completely digital environment, augmented reality allows us to digitally enrich the physical environment that surrounds us. “At Snapchat we really love the real world and are thinking about how to make it better, not how to get people away from it”Explained Qi Pan, Snap’s head of computer vision technology, during a meeting organized in Milan.
However, this does not mean that the two technologies are mutually exclusive and that – in a sort of duel – only one of the two will be able to characterize our future: “I think there are anyway situations in which the metaverse – which today, however, indicates very different things – will have its usefulness ”, explained Qi Pan. “For example, it will offer the possibility to people who are very distant from each other to find themselves in a shared environment and live common experiences”.
Similarly, even the smartphone could continue to exist: “Our goal is to become the leading platform in the field of augmented reality and to allow our users to stop looking at the world through a telephone, but directly through a pair of glasses. Rather than replacing the smartphone, however, we will probably face a transition in which these two technologies will integrate, and in which there will still be situations in which it will be easier to use the rectangular shape smartphone “.
The technology of iCub 3, the IIT robot halfway between metaverse and tele-existence
by Emanuele Capone
It is still a distant prospect. As even Snapchat experts admitted, the trade-offs needed to bring Spectacles 4 to life are important. First of all, the battery lasts a maximum of 30 minutes, a longevity certainly not sufficient for the constant use foreseen for the future. Furthermore, digital objects do not cover our entire visual spectrum, but are located only in the center of it, limiting immersion. The indispensable ecosystem of applications is then still all to be createdwhile many features we will probably only discover when the technology is more mature.
Other unknowns are related to the reaction of the public. Up to now, augmented reality viewers placed on the market have always had little success: the long-awaited ones Magic Leap One – so bulky that transform the wearer into a sort of cyborg – they have sold very little, forcing the Florida startup to many layoffs and to decide to turn only to the professional market (as Google had already done with its Glass). Will it be enough to reduce the size of these viewers to be successful? And we’re really sure we want to live with a digital screen constantly in front of your eyes?
Before we can answer these questions, we have to wait a little longer. According to what was always stated by Qi Pan, it will take still 5-10 years before this product is mature and can begin to spread in common use. Provided that Apple does not shorten the time frame, which for some time has been creating great expectations in the field of augmented reality viewers. The colossus of Cupertino, according to expectationsit could in fact launch its first device perhaps as early as 2022.
Despite the many unknowns that still surround this sector, many experts are convinced: our future will be in augmented reality and smartglasses will over time replace smartphones as a basic device. At that point, the fusion of the physical and digital worlds will be complete.