Apple plans to release its first augmented reality headset in 2022, followed by a smaller device a pair of AR glasses in 2023. The Information sources claim Apple held an internal presentation in October where it expected to release the AR headset (really a mixed AR/VR headset).
The design would superficially resemble an Oculus Quest, but it would have “high-resolution” eyepieces (possibly the previously rumored 8K displays) that would let you read “small type.” And while the presence of cameras on the outside is practically expected for headsets at this point, Apple would promise a relatively seamless experience that would let people stand both in front of and behind digital objects.
The glasses, meanwhile, aren’t as well-defined. Existing prototypes reportedly resemble “high-priced sunglasses” that have “thick frames” to house the processors and battery. Apple has explored the prospect of lenses that darken whenever you’re using AR and alert people nearby, although it’s far from certain this will see use. The company is apparently confident in the technology, at least. Senior managers supposedly told employees that later versions of the glasses could obviate the need for iPhones in “roughly a decade,” an Information source said.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously said that he regards augmented reality as “a big idea, like the smartphone,” telling The Independent in 2017: “The smartphone is for everyone, we don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge.”
Apple’s AR glasses seem designed to fulfill this promise, with The Information reporting that senior managers have said they believe the device could supplant the iPhone in about a decade.
As the smartphone market matures, Apple and many other tech companies are looking to virtual and augmented reality as the next big tech platforms. The iPhone maker has been building up resources in this area for years, buying tech from smaller companies and dedicating more employees to the project. Rivals like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have also been investing heavily in this area through projects like HoloLens and Oculus.
However, virtual and augmented reality have proved tough ground for development, with bulky hardware and disappointing user experiences stymieing growth. Just last month Google effectively ended its Daydream experiment, which used phones to power VR headsets, citing a lack of developer adoption and “decreasing usage” from customers. In this context it seems wise for Apple to bide its time rather than rush to market.