See below for why I do not buy this:

According to MacRumors, Apple is in the process of designing high-tech ‘contact lenses’ which will let you live in augmented reality without the need for a handheld device.

The ‘Apple Lens’ will combine the iPhone with Apple Glass and contact lenses so that you can make calls, search the web and even play games while being able to see the world around you.

The smart contact lenses will reportedly blend with your natural eye colour and use something called ‘realityOS’. What’s more, they’ll be much cheaper than iPhones, with price points ranging between £99 and £299.

Source: Apple to replace the iPhone with magic metaverse ‘contact lens’ that lets you see in VR – Daily Star

VR has its place but today’s VR helmets are awkward to use and not suited for mass market adoption. Many vendors are well along on smaller, light weight, eyeglass-like VR viewers. There has been talk, as noted in this linked article, about the possibility of future contact lenses to implement VR viewing.

This claim that Apple is working on such a lens, though, is highly speculative coming from an analyst research note saying this would happen after 2030. The concept is possible – one company says they already have a VR contact lens.

But there is also a problem with the contact lens approach …

In December 2021, I had a periodic eye exam. I am fortunate I only need reading glasses and while I have a slight distance vision astigmatism correction, I am not required to wear distance vision glasses while driving (yet). Nevertheless, I nearly always wear them, if only for my dark glasses clip-ons.

The distance vision glasses help when I do photography at air shows. However, I switch back and forth between glasses on, then off, to look through the camera viewfinder. This is awkward so I asked the optometrist about the possibility of contact lenses. Many photographers elect to use daily wear contact lenses when doing photography; another application is outdoor activities like jogging, hiking, tennis and other sports.

The response I got was odd: “Contact lenses would not be a first choice for someone at my age“. He then cited the potential problem of dry eyes (which I do not have) – in fact, my eyes were diagnosed in perfect health with no signs of age-related issues like cataracts or thinning of the optic nerve and macular degeneration. He also mentioned issues with my astigmatism – which is about the minimum they even bother to correct and far, far, far less than the correction my wife had when she wore contacts. The reasons given made no sense to me.

This statement about age was odd to me as my late Mom was prescribed a contact lens for her right eye – when she was about 89 years old, due to, I think, a prior surgical procedure and her eye condition.

When I got home, I looked into this and found that historically, optometrists have steered away from prescribing contact lenses to persons over age 50. The reasons for that go back a long way but are apparently no longer valid reasons.

It appeared that optometrists might discriminate against older adults when it comes to contact lenses. They might even be because they are less profitable than eyeglasses [1].

From market research, contact lens wearing falls off after about age 40. Similarly, essentially 100% of the population will require a reading correction at some point in their 40s.

The bottom line: Apple is apparently designing a product that ceases to become useful once you enter your 40s and is largely unavailable to you over age 50.

Do you see problems with this?

Similarly, I have a high-end VR headset (I call them “helmets”). They are designed to create a focus point as if it were six feet in front of you. However, once again, once you need reading correction, this doesn’t work. Some have diopter adjustments but not all. In fact, on mine, I have to wear a pair of cheap +1.00 reading glasses while wearing the headset. This reduces the field of view, and while it improves focus, it is still not accurate, and putting the headset on and off is a huge bother when wearing glasses.

Consequently, as long as optometrists do not want to prescribe contact lenses to persons over age 50 – this product could end up not being as big as they think it is. Particularly since the metaverse and VR seems destined to be cut off from those over age 50. If you are under age 50 today, good for you – but some day in the future you will be over age 50.

Footnote

[1] Private optometry practices make nearly 2/3ds of their income from the sale of lenses and frames. The friendly optician that helps you pick out frames is also likely paid, in part, on a commission basis. In the U.S., it is said that over half of all frames are made by one company who markets their products under dozens of brand names. This is why eye glass frames are absurdly priced – $200 to $400 for a pair of eyeglasses frames without lenses. It’s a monopoly. Conversely, contact lenses are not a high profit item for optometrists. While you might get your first set of contacts through their office, many people thereafter order online at steep discounts (up to 70% less). You can see that economic incentives may also play a role in the availability of contact lenses to consumers.

By EdwardM