After a decade of development, Corning, the company that brought us Pyrex and spacecraft windows, announced that it had succeeded in pulling off the seemingly impossible — a bendable glass. Called Willow Glass, the flexible material defies the odds by being a glass that can bend as easily as a piece of paper ... without breaking.
What does the miracle material mean for Dick Tracy wannabes? A smart watch is a distinct reality — and soon.
Having designed the decidedly durable Gorilla Glass for the iPhone, the Corning and Apple partnership has already proven fruitful; now several anonymous sources told The New York Times that Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of the pliant glass. Such a watch would operate on Apple’s iOS platform, several sources said, and the technology under development distinguishes itself from other smart watches on the horizon by the use of the glass that can curve around and move along with the body.
Apple officially declined to comment on its plans. Naturally, it's not going to quash the marketing momentum that builds like a tsunami in advance of its mysterious new product announcements, but all indications seem to point in this direction. As the Times concludes, it’s uncertain when Apple might unveil such a device, but it’s clear that it has the technology.
And it is Apple, after all: Of course it's going to make a 007 watch, right?
In the last few years, the idea of wearable computers has gone from sci-fi fantasy into the real world with products like the Nike FuelBand, which monitors a user’s daily exertion, and Google’s glasses, which promise to be the next best thing to a computer implanted directly into the frontal cortex.
"Apple’s certainly made a lot of hiring in that area," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst who specializes in wearable computers. "Apple is already in the wearable space through its ecosystem partners that make accessories that connect to the iPhone," she said. "This makes Apple potentially the biggest player of the wearables market in a sort of invisible way."
"Over the long term wearable computing is inevitable for Apple; devices are diversifying and the human body is a rich canvas for the computer," Epps said. "But I’m not sure how close we are to a new piece of Apple hardware that is worn on the body."
In the meantime, if your inner Inspector Gadget can’t wait for Apple to launch its first wearable computers, watch this nifty tutorial below on how to turn your iPod Nano into a watch.
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