As big tech takes chunks out of private healthcare, keep watching what Apple does in machine vision, as it may hint at plans to transform yet another industry: eye care.
Augmented reality, or real augmentation?
It’s always of interest when Apple introduces new platforms, as these usually help build new industries. So continued speculation around its plans for Apple AR glasses should be of interest to enterprises seeking new spaces in which to do business, or fresh approaches to their existing enterprise.
The latest speculation kind of confirms earlier reports, but also says Apple is plotting a path to introduce three different iterations of these devices.
The AR headset in 2022
Plans begin with an AR “mixed reality” headset, probably arriving in 2022. This should weigh around 5 ounces, give or a take a few, would cost around $1,000, and be designed to support AR and VR experiences. It will use Sony’s Micro-OLED displays and be designed to be an immersive experience; that would make it useful for enterprises seeking ways to distribute highly engaging branded content and/or virtual shopping/collaboration experiences.
AR Glasses in 2025
The headset may be followed by AR glasses designed to be worn everywhere — but not until 2025. These will apparently be designed to layer useful information on your surroundings to provide a truly augmented reality experience. This will be quite a big deal for indoor mapping, for retailers, and should be incredibly valuable in the health, manufacturing, engineering, and other industries in which overlays of useful information may help.
These will likely have a huge impact on accessibility, particularly when used with voice assistants and AI. However, Apple will need to be able to deliver medical grade lenses in these glasses if it wants to appeal to all those potential customers who need spectacles to see what’s happening around them.
AR for eyes in 2030
Both products fade into insignificance when compared to what is currently claimed to be Apple’s plans for AR contact lenses. These will likely bring all of the above and may (I suppose) also mean you’ll pick up Apple AR lenses that are customized to improve your eyesight — so you’ll see better in both the real and the AR worlds. These won’t be pleading for your pocket change until 2030 at the earliest, and with 10 years to build them, any prediction is more of a wish list than a reality.
Apple for health
CEO Tim Cook frequently asserts that Apple will ultimately be remembered for its contributions to health. Speaking at the Time 100 summit in 2019, he said: “I do think there will be a day when people looking back will say Apple’s greatest contribution to the world was healthcare.”
And yet, other than the Health app, accessibility, and the sensors inside Apple Watch, this remains an elusive future vision — not least because not everyone can afford the price of admission to that part of the digital health world.
That’s not to say it isn’t already having some effect.
ResearchKit is enabling researchers to gather large quantities of data much more effectively than before, Apple Watch already saves lives, while Activity, Fitness+, and all the other behavior modification strings to Apple’s bow are making a difference, one Stand alert at a time. (“The big idea is to empower people to own their health,” Cook has said).
I don’t think we’re anywhere near the top of Apple’s ambitions in the health sector.
Aim high, start small
The global health insurance market is worth more $3 trillion, and even a $2 trillion company needs to find its next bucket of bucks somewhere. Or did you think those Apple Watch with health insurance deals weren’t destined to follow a story line similar to the Motorola ROKR iTunes phone?
Apple learns fast, and as its growing fleet of health-focused solutions continues to evolve, to me it feels inevitable it will seek to transmute those sensor-driven health data insight machines into foundations for bigger dreams.
The purported launch of AR contacts in 2030 is around when I think we’ll see the real synergy between Apple’s ambitions kick in, as by then Apple will offer a combined health product matrix to protect the health you’ve got, augment the health you lack, and help doctors cure the ills you find along the way.
After all, if the Virgin brand run by a bearded music industry entrepreneur can pivot to running a global chain of health providers, Apple, which has arguably already helped transform much of human existence in the same time frame, may be able to achieve something more. Cook seems to think so.
Perhaps it could be called AppleCare.
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