updated 10:53 pm EST, Fri January 3, 2014
Announcement fuels speculation around Apple's rumored 'iWatch'
Glass manufacturer Corning has announced that it has adapted its popular "Gorilla Glass" strengthened glass variation to work with curved and other "3D" shapes, clearing the way for the product to be used with existing and future devices that rely on curved surfaces, such as smartwatches, eyeglasses and other "wearable tech." Corning's relationship with Apple -- Gorilla Glass is used in all of its mobile products -- has fuelled further speculation on Apple's alleged "iWatch."
Whether Apple produces a smartwatch or other wearable item in 2014 -- it has announced nothing along those lines, even though it is partly responsible for inventing the phenomenon when it added a clip to its tiny iPod shuffle in 2006 -- products like the Pebble smartwatch and Google's Glass have made the product category a trend. Smartphones (and smartphone makers) have jumped on board, incorporating slightly curved glass touchscreens on some devices, and interest for other, less conventional form factors for intelligent devices is increasing.
Presently, devices that use curved glass have had to work with more fragile glass rather than the breakage-resistant substrates made by Corning. "We can now take Gorilla Glass all the way from flat sheet to a finished 3D-shaped product in Asia, expediting turnaround times and minimizing logistical complexity," SVP and General Manager James R. Steiner said, referring to a partnership with Taiwan-based G-Tech Optoelectronics. "Corning's 3D-forming technology meets [the] demand and expands the design possibilities for industrial designers."
Apple, which has previous used slightly-curved glass in its iPod nano product and favors glass as a building material for both its products and stores (including its "spaceship" Campus 2, currently under construction, that will use boundary-pushing technologies to make gigantic curved glass wall pieces), has already moved to patent curved touchscreens and other technologies that could be used in wearable devices. A popular but speculative rendering of an imagined "iWatch" shows a wraparound piece of display-capable glass that encases the user's wrist, while other 3D models of a curved iPhones have also been circulated on the Internet.