Why Warby Parker Will Be the Next Apple

Warby Parker, the fashion company specializing in discount, specialty eyeglasses, is in the perfect position to take over the next wave in personal, wearable computing via Google Glass.

After recently raising almost $37 million in venture capital the eyeglasses company, Warby Parker, seems poised to do more than just make ultra-hip eyewear with a side of delicious customer service. Investors are known for looking ahead to future trends and it’s now become obvious that augmented-reality glasses are the new future of mobile devices. The popularity of Warby Parker and Google’s need for an existing market base makes them good partners as product designer, McKay Thomas, pointed out on September 11, 2012, stating, “Like any new piece of hardware looking for its first customer base, Google Glass, Google’s heads-up display device, needs a distribution platform. A platform for Google’s eyeglasses attachment could offer a sales channel, as well as type of social proof that it is acceptable to use the new wearable computer.” Filmmaker, Albert Art, agrees, stating, “IF Google decides to team up with an eyewear company, might I suggest Warby Parker.”

As LeVar Burton once said, “But don’t take my word for it.” Warby Parker is hiring a “Principal Software Engineer, Computer Vision” who can “develop computer / machine vision applications that make our company succeed.”

Why Compare Warby Parker to Apple?

As Marc Andreessen said on August 20, 2011, “Software is eating the world,” and as David Kirkpatrick argued in Forbes, “Every company is a software company.” Warby Parker is no exception. At their very core they are a e-commerce store, which is it’s very nature, software running on a web server, but it’s more than that. They have “virtual try-on” functions on their website that allow you to upload a picture and see what you look like without every touching a frame. They have developed a pattern for making money and an e-commerce blueprint for how to be successful in 2013 and beyond. This includes doing things like hiring directors of Data Science, Software Engineering, and Computer Vision. Nokia was the number one smartphone manufacture for 15 years and until Apple started making the iPhone they were pretty hard to unseat. Warby Parker has already begun to unseat Luxottica in a $16 Billion dollar industry. If they can develop a platform for Google Glass or other wearable, augmented reality applications from Microsoft like Apple did with iTunes, they can create the one-two punch of selling the hardware and the applications developed for them. It’s safe to assume Google will want to do the same with Google Play, but unless they go the route they did of developing their own Nexus smartphones and purchasing Motorola they are unlikely to control the eyeglass market and will need someone like Warby Parker to deliver their products.

Bet Your Apps on Google Glass

How Augmented Reality Will Usurp the Smartphone

On May 1, 2012 I wrote a post about how Google Goggles would be the next big thing after smartphones and on November 22, 2012, Business Insider wrote in The End of The Smartphone Era is Coming about how Google Glass will be the new, default way people communicate, usurping the current cellphone. Nicholas Carlson writes, “Something like Google Glass or whatever Microsoft is working on could end up replacing the smartphone as the dominant way people access the Internet and connect to each other.”

While Google Glass uses a tiny screen displayed on the inside of glasses, Microsoft is working on augmented reality, where data and illustrations overlay the actual world around you. And while these still new technologies are being built around wearable glasses, they will enevitably get smaller and be embedded in contact lenses. The US military is already developing augmented reality contact lenses as seen in Mission Impossible 4, Ghost Protocol.

I’ve always thought that anything we see in the movies is just a pre-cursor for real life (but we’re all still waiting on flying cars and cold fusion). The one I think about the most is the smartphone used in The Saint. It was a bar phone that flipped open like a mini-laptop that had Internet access. The movie came out in 1997 when the Internet still meant dial-up for most people and cell phones had yet to become ubiquitous. It took ten years, but by 2007 I had a better phone than Val Kilmer, but then Tom Cruise had to go and up me with his augmented reality contact lenses. I guess I’ll have to wait for Microsoft or Google to catch me up in another 10 years.

UPDATE 12/17/2012: Scientists in Belgium have taken a crucial step toward building screens into contact lenses, “Jelle De Smet and a team of researchers at Ghent University built an LCD screen in a curved contact lens.”