Apple ‘stepping up’ investment in AR glasses, but they’re still reportedly more than a year away

Apple is reportedly “stepping up” its investment in AR glasses, the Financial Times reports. After more than a year with a team exploring whether producing a “head-worn” device is viable, people with knowledge of the process said the company is devoting more resources to move its “science project towards a consumer product.” The sources said AR has overtaken the company’s secretive “Project Titan” car endeavor as Apple’s top priority for its next big product launch. While Apple’s chief designer Jony Ive told the New Yorker he viewed the user’s face as the “wrong place” to implement the technology, CEO Tim Cook said when done right, AR has the potential to produce something so fundamentally life-changing that “we will wonder, when it does, how we lived without it. Kind of how we wonder how we lived without our phones today.”
The sources said any launch is at least a year away, and possibly much longer, disputing earlier speculation that Apple’s collaboration with Zeiss could produce a lightweight pair of AR glasses as early as this year. The Financial Times report is more inline with analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s prediction that users probably won’t see augmented reality technology from Apple for at least 1-2 years, but to expect the company to “leapfrog” competitors by 3-5 years once they finally enter the market. Magic Leap is planning to release “light-field” glasses later this year that are smaller than Microsoft’s HoloLens but still larger than a regular pair of glasses. The Magic Leap system will be “tethered to a small pack that provides battery and processing power” and cost more that $1,000. With Apple’s usual focus on aesthetics, the company may be waiting to see what its competitors can put on the market and focus on improving the look, feel and built-in software to distinguish its own offering in the wearable AR space. Apple has reportedly devoted hundreds of its engineers to the AR project and already patented a concept for an AR mapping system that would layer map information and directions over live iPhone video, so the company could test its AR software muscle before rolling out actual wearables. [via Apple Insider]


Dan Pye was a news editor at iLounge. He's been involved with technology his whole life, and started writing about it in 2009. He's written about everything from iPhone and iPad cases to Apple TV accessories.