The notion of Apple releasing augmented reality glasses may have seemed ludicrous even a few months ago, but a new report from the Financial Times suggests that Apple is dead serious about making such a product a reality.
According to the report, Apple began investigating the feasibility and utility of developing smart glasses a little bit more than a year ago. Presumably, Apple’s initial research in the area has been promising because the company is now eyeing the possibility of “taking it from a science project towards a consumer product.”
As its engineers have become more adept at miniaturisation technology with products such as its AirPods wireless headphones and the iPad’s Pencil, AR seems to have overtaken Apple’s secretive car project as the company’s top priority for its next big launch, beyond the iPhone.
Previous reports have said that Apple’s AR research team now boasts hundreds of researchers and engineers with broad experience in fields like Augmented Reality, head-mounted displays, optics and more. As a prime example of the talent Apple is attracting and bringing in-house, Apple last year hired Zeyu Li, a vision algorithm engineer from Magic Leap.
It’s also worth noting that Apple CEO Tim Cook has been uncharacteristically effusive when discussing the potential for augmented reality. Given how notoriously tight-lipped Apple tends to be when it comes to discussing new technologies, Cook’s willingness to heap unrestrained praise on the technology is definitely worth paying attention to.
Not too long ago, Cook said that Apple is “high on augmented reality for the long run” and that the technology may ultimately prove to be as impactful as the smartphone itself. In a similar vein, Cook said the following about AR during an interview on Good Morning America about six months ago.
“Maybe it’s something we’re talking about,” Cook said, “maybe it’s someone else here that is not here, present, but could be made to appear to be present with us. So there’s a lot of really cool things there.”
As intriguing as all of this is, Apple isn’t likely to launch a pair of smart glasses for at least another year. A previous report from Bloomberg claimed that Apple a few months ago placed an order for “small quantities of near-eye displays from one supplier for testing” and that a finished product might appear on store shelves as early as 2018. That projection, however, might be a tad too optimistic.
Incidentally, Robert Scoble earlier this year claimed that Apple will eventually release a pair of Augmented Reality glasses via a not-so-secretive partnership with Carl Zeiss AG, a reputed German company with decades of expertise and experience in developing a myriad of advanced optical systems.