Apple is working on a wearable device similar to Google Glass that would blend an augmented reality display with a standard pair of glasses, according to a report from Bloomberg News. The company is still exploring the smart glasses market, the report states, so it’s unclear when a finished product will materialize. The earliest time frame for a product reveal is 2018, yet Apple could sit on the project for much longer or change its direction as it has with its automotive ambitions.
It’s been well known for months now that Apple has been collecting AR talent and putting minds to work in secret on some type of consumer product. CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly answered AR-related questions on quarterly earnings calls, saying he thinks the technology has more potential than its virtual reality counterpart and coyly hinting at Apple’s plans to enter the space. However, as of September of this year, Apple continues to hire both AR and VR experts, leaving open the possibility that it could develop products in both categories.
According to Bloomberg, Apple has already had talks with potential suppliers for components like near-eye displays. It also has the expertise behind companies like PrimeSense, Metaio, and Flyby, all startups that were focused on AR software, 3D mapping, and computer vision before Apple acquired them over the course of the last three years. The goal is to develop a pair of glasses that could connect wirelessly to an iPhone and overlay information on the wearer’s field of vision.
AR is not without its hurdles. Google Glass was a massive flop, giving AR a sour public image and showing just how far the technology needs to go before it can be worn on our face. The most capable headset available to the public right now is the developer version of Microsoft’s HoloLens, which costs $3,000. Another startup, Magic Leap, continues to work in secret on AR technology it will not discuss in detail.
Meanwhile, the rest of the tech community has turned its focus to VR. Google has its Daydream platform and new View headsets, while Facebook-owned Oculus VR and Samsung are working on all manner of high-end and mobile headsets. It’s unclear where Apple will fall on the spectrum, but Cook remains bullish on AR. “There are some really hard technology challenges there, but it will happen in a big way, and we will wonder when it does, how we ever lived without it,” he said of AR last month.