Apple is working on something big. And if all goes according to plan, that something could eventually replace the iPhone.
You might have guessed that the “something” we’re referring to is, in fact, the rumored augmented reality glasses that are reportedly in development at Cupertino.
Apple has never announced an AR device, but more than a few reports and rumors have backed it up. A team member from Apple Support even confirmed its existence to iDrop News back in July.
form and function aren’t really clear at this point, but iDrop
News has put together a set of renders imagining
what “Apple Glass” could look like and, more importantly, what it could
The basic premise of Apple Glass is to keep it as
close as possible to a “regular” pair of glasses or sunglasses. This would be
in-line with Apple’s minimalist design aesthetic — it’s a move that fits into
the context of Apple’s wider product lineup.
For example, the Apple Watch, (for the most part)
resembles a normal watch. As a wearable, it’s a device that’s designed to blend
seamlessly into a user’s existing wardrobe and style. The same idea, we
imagine, could apply to Apple Glass.
That makes even more sense when you account for the
fact that previous AR devices, like Google Glass, may have failed because they
were fairly goofy-looking. In other words, Apple Glass could have an easier
time being adopted by a wider range of consumers.
Apple Glass Frame
The frame of Apple Glass would likely be of a
high-quality metal. This is supported by the fact that Apple has reportedly
tapped one of its metal casing suppliers to build out its AR glasses.
In addition to serving as the chassis for the
lenses, the frame could also house a variety of cameras, sensors, and wireless
antennas that could make Apple Glass function, more or less, like a smartphone.
A “notch” on the front could house ambient
environment sensors, as well as a camera. The sides of the frame could also
feature Wi-Fi and Bluetooth components — including the same “split” antenna
design used on iPhones.
Apple Glass Arms
The “arms” of the glasses would also likely be fabricated in a luxe material. For our purposes, we imagine this pair to sport a soft leather to make wearing the device as comfortable as possible.
Beyond just keeping Apple Glass on your head, the
arms would also likely incorporate a suite of other components. That might
include the chipset and battery, as well as a Taptic Engine and sensors. With
the latter component, a user could interact with Apple Glass by tapping on the
The arm cover, presumably, will be interchangeable
— similar to Apple Watch bands. Users could buy a wide range of covers in
different fabrics and colors, allowing them to further customize their Apple
Glass to their own closet, or even to a particular outfit.
Apple Glass Display
The Apple Glass lenses would likely be manufactured
in a high-quality and scratch- and drop-resistant glass. If color-changing
lenses are involved (perhaps as an upgrade), Apple Glass could even double as
These lenses could be where the actual “augmented
reality” display would be projected, perhaps from a tiny micro-projector built
into the frame of the device.
given the close relationship between Apple and Intel, the latter
company’s development in retina-projecting tech could
be used instead. Basically, it uses an eye-safe laser to project an image
directly onto the retina. In this case, the lenses would function simply as
Apple Glass Wireless Charging
Apple would without a doubt optimize the device’s
power consumption to allow it to run for long periods of time. But without
space or room for an analog power port, there are only a couple options for how
Apple Glass could be charged.
When it does need to be charged, Apple will likely
employ wireless charging. Apple Glass could come with a charging base, similar
to Apple Watch, that uses the Qi standard. In addition to being a safe place to
store the glasses, this base could also charge the device. The wireless charging
base would be lined with ultra-soft microfiber to ensure the lenses aren’t
While on the
base, the Apple Glass could charge via wireless charging coils embedded around
the metal frame. Barring that, Apple could field a new, smaller charging port
standard — but wireless charging is much more likely.
At this point, it’s harder to guess at the full
range of capabilities that Apple Glass could sport — harder than forecasting
its aesthetic and construction.
Reports seem to indicate that this will be a standalone device, without the need for a connected iPhone. Rumors hint at the fact that Apple Glass could, someday, replace the smartphone.
As part of that, sources have claimed that Apple
Glass will feature its own set of applications tailored for augmented reality,
as well as its own App Store and operating system rOS.
The team has
reportedly created an operating system for the headset based on iOS. Just as
Macs runs on macOS, Apple’s AR headset is said to run on rOS, short for
“reality operating system”. Bloomberg reports that T288 is also working on creating an in-house chip capable
of powering an AR headset while conserving precious battery life.
We can predict Apple’s moves, but without hard evidence, it’s only speculation. Luckily for fans of the Apple Glass concept, a lot of evidence hinting at a standalone Apple AR product has surfaced over the past couple years.
earlier, rumor has it that Apple has tapped its chief metal casing
supplier — Catcher Technology — to help it build out frames for an upcoming
wearable product. The company also reportedly met with suppliers of AR device components at
CES ’18 in January. And those are just the meetings we know about.
And as recently
as last week, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published an Apple patent for
an advanced optical system that could be used in both AR and VR devices.
The system, in the patent’s words, would help
mitigate the issues in wearing head-mounted devices long-term. That could hint
at its use in a standalone AR product, rather than a virtual reality device
meant for shorter wearing sessions.
Apple has been
ramping up work on a pair of augmented reality glasses (dubbed Project
Mirrorshades) to succeed the iPhone. While Apple has declined to publicly
confirm the project, according to Bloomberg sources, the company has adopted an aggressive development timeline and aims to
have the device ready by 2019, with the possibility of shipping as early as
2020. The glasses will reportedly integrate Siri and display maps, texts, and
Last year, Quanta Computer Inc., an Apple
manufacturing partner, entered into an agreement with AR component maker Lumus
Ltd. to build lenses for smart glasses. Lumus is an Israeli company that
specializes in designing wearable AR displays that project information into the
user’s field of view.
“We are working
on an AR project and have studied the optical technologies that AR devices have
needed since two years ago,” Quanta Vice Chairman C.C. Leung toldreporters a few weeks before
the deal. “Currently, we see such a device available in the market no later
than the year 2019.”
Economic Daily News has reported that Apple is
working with Quanta to manufacture its AR headsets, the companies were careful
to avoid any mention of Apple. Leung would only state that the device would be
a “headset-like gadget with a fully transparent lens that allows users to see
through and interact with the environment.” Analysts believe that Quanta and
Apple’s respective AR headsets, which are both slated for release in 2019, are
one and the same.
Lumus and Quanta expect that their partnership will
help drive down costs of manufacturing AR glasses below $1,000, which suggests
that Apple’s AR glasses will likely cost right around $1,000.
that the most expensive key enabling technology in the AR glasses teardown will
now be affordably priced, effectively bringing down the overall cost of
consumer AR glasses,” Lumus CEO Ari Grobman said according to Bloomberg.
“Quanta has suggested that full AR headsets would
be priced for less than the cost of a high-end cell phone. That’s a big deal.”
Whereas virtual reality provides an
all-encompassing digital experience, AR shades overlay 2D and 3D images and
information onto the real world, making for a less isolating and potentially
revolutionary consumer experience.
why Apple has opted to invest heavily in AR while Silicon Valley competitors
like Facebook have turned to VR headsets. Applications for AR
technology are limitless, and range from allowing users to pull up contact
information on their conversation partners in real-time to getting player stats
during a basketball game.
Though Apple CEO Tim Cook has been tight-lipped
about Apple’s AR glasses, he has not been shy about expressing enthusiasm about
his company’s increased investments in AR technology, and the potential
applications and business opportunities it presents.
“AR can be really great,” Cook said during an
earnings call in 2016. “We have been and continue to invest a lot in this. We
are high on AR for the long run, we think there’s great things for customers
and a great commercial opportunity.”
“We’re already seeing things that will transform
the way you work, play, connect and learn,” Cook said in a recent earnings
call. “Put simply, we believe AR is going to change the way we use technology
Apple’s AR efforts first cropped up following the release of the much-derided
Google Glass in 2013. They intensified earlier last year when Apple released
ARKit, an augmented reality development platform for iOS 11, at the Worldwide
Developers Conference. ARKit allows developers to create AR apps for the iPhone
and iPad which utilize the devices’ processors and cameras. The tool provides
“fast and stable motion tracking” that makes objects look like they exist in
real space, which will help vastly improve the experience of online shopping
and gaming, not to mention other nifty applications.
to Bloomberg, ARKit is
the handiwork of an Apple team (rumored to have over 1,000
engineers) operating under the codename “T288”, which has been tasked with a
variety of AR hardware and software projects. While ARKit was an important
first step, bringing AR to hundreds of millions of Apple users, bringing a
usable pair of AR glasses to market poses a different set of challenges.
Cook put it bluntly in a recent interview with The Independent, when he said that “the technology itself doesn’t exist” to make AR glasses “in a quality way.” He specified two challenges currently facing AR engineers: the field of view and the quality of the displays.
Image via USPTO
would see on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be
satisfied with,” Cook said to The Independent. “Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied.”
But that is not to say that Apple isn’t progressing
in developing the technology required to power a viable AR headset.
A look at Apple’s patent filings, some dating as
far back as 2010, and acquisitions also gives a sense of how much work the
company has put into Project Mirrorshades and what array of capabilities we can
expect the glasses to have.
One 2014 Apple
patent, dubbed “Transparent Electronic Device”, describes a display screen that can be used to
overlay virtual imagery over a real-world view. While the technology could
ostensibly be used in AR glasses, Apple also described other potential uses
including augmenting the windows of a tour bus and enhancing museum exhibits.
Another patent for “Augmented Reality Maps” describes a mapping app capable of
providing users with information about their environment in real-time,
including street names, points of interest, and GPS directions.
In a more recent July 2017 patent application, Apple describes technology that could help devices determine and represent points of interest (e.g. buildings, landmarks, or moving cars) in a real environment. Such points of interest would have digital content (including text, audio, and video) associated with them that users could pull up. Though Apple says the technology is most suitable to mobile phones and tablets, it also mentions that it could be adapted to a “semi-transparent spectacle or glasses”.
Mike Peterson, iDropNews, 14 February 2018.