Alphabet, Inc.'s (GOOGL) Google Glass was considered a gimmick, and in some cases, too advanced for its time, but Apple, Inc. (AAPL) has the benefit of hindsight. And the company can use Google's failure to its advantage.
According to a Bloomberg report, the iPhone-maker is considering its options in the realm of digital glasses and other wearable eye gadgets that can give it access to the augmented reality (AR) space. More recently, tech blogger Robert Scoble said a source confirmed that Apple was working with a German lens and optic maker on smartglasses.
Such a device could work by connecting wirelessly to an iPhone, which can then display information and images about objects in the wearer's field of vision, creating a sort of augmented reality – technology that overlays digital images over the real world. (See also, How & Why Google Glass Failed)
Bloomberg also noted that not only has Apple already spoken to potential suppliers about the product, it has ordered small quantities of near-eye displays from one of the suppliers. But given the limited quantities of components Apple has purchased, there's little to suggest that the company ready to dive into mass-production. (See also, Snapchat Launches Hardware Product)
With revenue in its bread-and-butter iPhone business slowing down in both the U.S. and China, Apple CEO Tim Cook is looking into the future. In a September interview with "Good Morning America," Cook praised the growth possibilities of AR, saying that it will be bigger than VR "because this gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present talking to each other, but also have other things visually for both of us to see."
But is the market ready for another form of AR glasses? Google's attempt failed miserably and the company ultimately killed off Google Glass, which was criticized for its design. Given Apple's design capabilities, however, combined with the strength of its mobile platform, particularly in software, Apple could make it work. While it's still a risky bet, the bigger risk would be to allow a competitor to take the lead.