Apple AR glasses Release Date Rumours, Leaks, News and Updates

Apple glasses are coming. Rumour has it that the creek is turning into a noisy river and we are now expecting the AR glasses in 2023.

That’s three years later than originally expected, but the latest rumors are based on a leaked internal presentation to Apple employees. That presentation includes an augmented reality headset that is expected to be launched in 2022 and AR glasses on deck for the following year.

The rumor mill is furiously collecting purchases related to AR, from Akonia Holographics – a Colorado-based startup dealing with AR displays – to the one that started it all: Metaio, a German company that has developed an Augmented Reality SDK that seems to form the basis for ARKit, the Apple Augmented Reality developer API that debuted in iOS 11 in 2017. We also know that Tim Cook is a big fan of augmented reality, which he considers social and inclusive while discrediting virtual reality as an isolating technology.

According to people familiar with its development and confirmed in screenshots shared by MacRumors, there will be a new “Items” tab in the Find me, which will show a user’s items, just like there are tabs for people and devices.

Users can put their tags in lost mode. When a tag is in lost mode and the system detects that it is being worn by another person who owns an Apple product, their device will alert the person about the item, possibly with a message from the owner and instruct them to contact them. This is done using the new offline tracking feature introduced by Apple at the WWDC this year, which uses nearby Apple devices to send private location information about a user’s devices to the cloud.

These tags contain a lot of technology in a very small package that consists of a white circular tag with an Apple logo. They contain Bluetooth LE, NFC, a speaker to assist in locating, and run a cropped version of iOS. Pairing with a user’s iCloud account is done through proximity, just like with AirPods. NFC can be used when a tag is located, so a user can scan the tag by tapping it with their phone to get information and help contact the owner.

Apple Glasses: Release Date, Price, Specs

Apple AR glasses: Release date

Assuming that Apple is working on an AR headset or AR glasses – there is plenty of evidence (gathered below) that Apple is working on an AR headset – when is such a device likely to launch?

A 2020 release date was looking likely but it now appears that Apple has pushed the date back to 2022.

The Information is reporting that at an internal Apple meeting Apple executives have shared a roadmap that includes plans for two augmented reality devices. An augmented-reality headset set to appear in 2022 and AR glasses coming a year later in 2023.

We may get official confirmation of Apple’s plans in this field before that date, however. According to the report, Apple intends to reach out to developers in 2021 with the hope that they will design software for the headset.

At the same time as the Information report appeared, Bloomberg also published a report stating that sources had confirmed that Apple would be delaying the release of its headset from 2020.

The first report of a 2020 release date for the glasses came way back in November 2017 via Bloomberg and was backed up by reputable sources in the months and years since.

An April 2018 Cnet report suggested that 2020 would be the launch date, according to ‘sources’.

Then, in March 2019, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported that Apple’s first AR product is set to go into mass production as soon as Q4 2019, with a deadline of Q2 2020. He also detailed features of the headset, but we’ll go into that in more detail below.

At the beginning of September 2019, the rumors started up again after code was spotted in the iOS 13 beta. MacRumours reported that documentation in an internal iOS 13 builds indicated that AR headset support was being built into iOS 13, there was even a reference for a device codenamed ‘Garta’. A clear indication that something is in the works at Apple and that it may soon launch.

It’s not the only iOS that’s revealing clues to the presence of an AR device. In September 2019 9to5Mac’s Guilherme Rambo tweeted that code in Xcode 11 included a framework for an ARDisplayDevice with files for AR headsets codenamed ‘Franc’ and ‘Luck’ and HoloKit codenamed ‘Garta’.

Then, towards the end of October 2019, Bloomberg published a report indicating that Apple had a date in 2020 in mind for the release of an AR headset.

However long we have to wait, Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster believes that augmented reality will be the next big thing for Apple. Munster is the analyst who was once convinced that Apple would launch a television set.

Munster expects that Apple will release Apple Glasses in late 2021, a year later than Kuo’s predicted release date but closer to what the sources at Apple are now indicating. It’s something Munster says we aren’t yet ready for, “but eventually we will be”.

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Price

We expect that when it launches Apple’s AR headset will have a high price, as is Apple’s custom. But we hope that the price will be a little more down-to-earth than that offered by the competition currently.

Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 glasses cost $3,500 (approx £2,661), while the Google Glass Enterprise Edition costs $1,828 (approx £1,336).

We estimate a starting price of £999/$999 for a consumer-focused product, but with no existing products to compare to, it’s a seller’s market.

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Design

It appears that there are actually two different AR products in the pipeline. A headset (codenamed N301) which will combine AR and VR features. This is said to resemble the Oculus Quest (which launched in May) and features a 3D sensor system that builds on the technology of the Face ID camera set up to create a map of a user’s surroundings. The headset will be used for “gaming, watching the video and virtual meetings,” according to a Bloomberg report in November 2019.

In addition, there will be smaller AR glasses more suited to being worn for longer periods of time. According to The Information’s source (also in November 2019) the current prototypes “look like high-priced sunglasses with thick frames that house the battery and chips.”

Back in June 2017, an iPhone Hacks report claimed that Apple’s smart glasses would have a unique design, according to their source.

Their insider provided details on the design – featuring a bone conduction earpiece, a microphone, an accelerometer and a capacitive frame for navigation and interaction, the glasses sound impressive.

Apple has been awarded patents that give some insight as to how the new glasses could look. One patent describes a way to conceal optical components behind an electrically-controlled layer so that they are hiden from view when not required. Another patent indicates that earphones could be removed from a head-mounted display and used as speakers (via this AppleInsider report.)

Some creative people have already come up with potential designs for Apple’s glasses. For example, this YouTube video (which enthusiastically claimed that the specs would launch back in 2018) has some neat designs.

(embed)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ekr-BS_aqmQ(/embed)

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Partners

In October 2019 analyst Ming-Chi Ku claimed that Apple will be collaborating with ‘third-party brands’ to design the headset, as per an October 2019 report (in Chinese).

A month later, in November 2019, a DigiTimes report suggested that Apple is partnering with Valve to make the AR glasses. DigiTimes reported back in July 2019 that Apple was ceasing development of the glasses, but it seems that the change was a transition to the partnership with Valve.

Another potential partner is Imagination Technologies. Apple and Imagination Technologies had a bit of a falling out a few years ago when Apple ended its licensing contract with the British firm. But now it appears that Apple has struck a deal with Imagination Technologies due to their expertise in ray tracing, which is a technology that renders graphics with realistic lighting, reflections, and shadowing so that they look real to the human eye. This kind of technology will be invaluable for AR applications. (Via Venture Beat)

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Specs

We don’t know much about the technologies being used in Apple’s AR specs (get it) but there are a few rumors circulating that could give an indication about what to expect.

Display

Apple has a number of patents related to AR glasses, leaving little doubt that the company is interested in the technology. One patent published by the US Patent and Trademark Office in October 2019 refers to Photochromic Lenses, which are the kind of glasses lenses that get darker when in bright sunlight.

In the patent, Apple notes that the “Head-mounted device such as a pair of augmented reality glasses” may have an adjustable opacity system, such as a photochromic layer. We assume that this technology would make it easier to read the screen in bright sunlight.

According to a cnet report in April 2018, Apple’s AR headset will offer an 8K display for each eye.

The 8K displays will make the VR and AR images look more lifelike and will help avoid the nauseous feeling that can be the result of using AR/VR headsets.

An older report from June 2017 suggested that the smart glass being used in Apple’s AR headset was being manufactured using a Kopin NED Acetate frame.

There were also claims that Apple is looking to sell its AR glasses with prescription lenses or even polarised lenses in partnership with Zeiss.

Processor

A cnet report in April 2018 suggested that the AR glasses won’t require a computer or smartphone to run.

Cnet’s source claimed that the headset will require a dedicated box powered by a custom Apple processor to which it will connect via a “high-speed, short-range wireless technology”. The box will use the wireless technology 60GHz WiGig, according to cnet’s source. The 60GHz WiGig signal cannot typically penetrate walls but it can propagate off reflections from walls, ceilings, floors and objects using beam-forming. This may not matter if the headset is used in just one location.

This does mean that users won’t be required to install various base stations around a room to enable to the headset to determine their location (as is the case with HTC Vive). Everything will be included in the one box and headset.

According to cnet, the box will feature a 5-nanometer processor. Apple is designing the chip in-house and the chip will be similar to the chips Apple is said to be developing for its Macs, with a switch from Intel planned for 2020.

However, that conflicts with the more recent claims of Ming-Chi Kuo, a man with a proven record of accurate predictions. Kuo states that the first-gen AR glasses will be heavily dependent on the iPhone, with the AR glasses essentially only providing the display. That leaves the iPhone to handle the computing, rendering, internet connectivity, and location services from the user’s pocket – hinting that, like with the Apple Watch, Android users won’t be able to get in on Apple’s AR fun.

While we assume that all this computing will be done wirelessly, it’s not explicitly mentioned in Kuo’s report.

If the iPhone handles all the heavy lifting, Apple can create a headset that is light and stylish, but there are also concerns about the impact on the battery life of your iPhone if it has to power the AR experience.

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Features

So far the evidence seems to point to the AR glasses being dependent on the iPhone, as the Apple Watch was when that launched. They will work as a display to deliver maps, messages, and games directly to your field of vision.

Bloomberg’s sources claim that the glasses will wirelessly connect to an iPhone and will display not only information but images and other data directly in front of the wearer’s field of view.

KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple could integrate AR to redefine key product lines. For example, an AR-powered interface could change the way that users interact with small-screen devices like the Apple Watch, eliminating issues with clunky controls.

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Software

A new operating system, dubbed rOS (r for reality), is being built for the AR headset. It is based on iOS, according to Bloomberg.

rOS will power the AR headset. Apparently, the ‘rOS’ software group is headed by Geoff Stahl, formerly a software manager for games and graphics at Apple.

As for how you will get apps, Apple has discussed pairing the headset with its own version of the App Store, where users would be able to download content, just as they do with the iPhone, Watch, Apple TV and Mac, according to Bloomberg.

(Featured Image credit: idropnews/Martin Hajek)