We heard last year that Apple was exploring the possibility of developing augmented reality hardware, and it seems like the company might be edging closer to that goal in the months since that initial report.
In November 2016, Bloomberg’s sources told the publication that Apple had ordered small quantities of near-eye displays to test augmented reality and mixed reality concepts.
Now, technologist Robert Scoble noted that he heard from an unnamed Carl Zeiss employee at CES that the optics firm was working with Apple on “a light pair” of AR/MR glasses that may be announced “this year.” Scoble pointed out that this might have been the reason for Carl Zeiss running an exhibition booth in the AR section of the expo, even though it wasn’t openly talking up its purported collaboration with Apple.
That’s sooner than the projected timeframe of 2018 that Bloomberg previously reported. As we noted in our story, there’s certainly plenty of reason to belive that Apple would be interested in developing AR eyewear, given CEO Tim Cook’s enthusiasm for the technology, the company’s acquisition of two AR startups over the past two years and the fact that it was recently awarded a patent for smart glasses equipped with digital displays.
If the rumors are true, it’ll be interesting to see what Apple comes up with. Unlike Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset, which works with desktop applications for gaming and 3D modeling, the Cupertino firm’s glasses are said to be designed to pair wirelessly with iPhones to show images and contextually relevant information in the wearer’s field of vision.
If that’s the direction Apple chooses, it’ll face a major challenge in once again creating and leading the charge in a new product category, as it did with the smartphone and smartwatch. It’d certainly be nice to see the company shake things up in the industry instead of iteratively updating its products like an also-ran as it did through 2016.