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Era of Wearable Computers Seems Imminent as Apple, Google Explore Ideas

Posted by Mark J. Miller on February 11, 2013 02:45 PM

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died before seeing two of his big ideas – an iCar and an iWatch – become reality. But word is that one of those visions may be coming to fruition in the near future.

The computer giant “is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass,” according to The New York Times. The watch will have some of the same functions as a smartphone, but the bulk of information about the gadget – when it might appear, cost, features – remains a mystery.

“Apple’s certainly made a lot of hiring in that area,” Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester analyst who specializes in wearable computing and smartphones, told The Times. “Apple is already in the wearable space through its ecosystem partners that make accessories that connect to the iPhone."

She cautioned that an iWatch probably wouldn't be landing on store shelves anytime soon, though.

Apple’s ability to make such a watch took a great leap forward last year when Corning, which produces the seemingly unbreakable glass used in iPhones, figured out a way to make bendable glass. Called Willow Glass, the flexible surface had been under development for more than a decade. (See a CNET video on Willow Glass here.)

Meanwhile, Google's Sergey Brin was spotted recently on a New York City subway train wearing what appeared to be a prototype for the company's augmented-reality glasses:

Hard to say when you might look down at your iWatch through your Google glasses — earlier reports that the eyewear would make its debut in late 2012 were, obviously, untrue. Yet wearable computers seem to be an area investors are focused on, and an era of the devices could soon be at hand.

“We believe technology could progress to a point where consumers have a tablet plus wearable computers, like watches or glasses, that enable simple things like voice calls, texting, quick searches, navigation,” Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said in a report last month, the Times reports. “These devices are likely to be cheaper than an iPhone and could ultimately be Apple’s best answer to addressing emerging markets.”

Of course some would rather Apple put some more of its cash and innovative thinking behind its so-far-underwhelming Apple TV, particularly those who have bought in to Apple TV already. And rumors of an Apple-made set continue to surface as well, though as with Google's glasses, the invention has long seemed to be perpetually a day away from its debut.

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