Tech

A brief history of Apple's not-so-top-secret AR glasses

Apple's march towards an augmented reality headset/glasses has been years in the making. Here's the proof.

If the latest rumors are to be believed, Apple is knee-deep work on a not-so-secret augmented reality (AR) headset, which is reportedly entered the "second phase" of development.

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2022

At this rate, the AR headset is well on its way to a third phase and then to the "engineering verification stage," which puts it on track for as early as 2022.

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Apple has been laying the groundwork for an AR headset/glasses for years with ARKit for iOS devices. At WWDC 2017, Apple announced ARKit and has steadily added more advanced capabilities such as object occlusion and skeletal tracking.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook has extolled the transformative potential of AR even though there hasn't been any "killer" AR experience.

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“I view AR as profound. Not today, not the app you'll see on the App Store today, but what it will be, what it can be, I think it's profound, and I think Apple is in a really unique position to lead in this area.”

Tim Cook, during Apple's 2017 Q4 earnings call

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“I can see uses for it in education, in consumers, in entertainment, in sports. I can see it in every business that I know anything about. I also like the fact that it doesn't isolate.”

Tim Cook, 2017

In a 2015 New Yorker profile, former Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive, was not hot on Google Glass — the first consumer AR headset that failed spectacularly.

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“When he later saw Google Glass, Ive said, it was evident to him that the face ‘was the wrong place.’”

The New Yorker, 2015

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In the same profile, Cook took a jab at Glass for its intrusiveness and said Apple "always thought it would flop."

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“We always thought that glasses were not a smart move, from a point of view that people would not really want to wear them. They were intrusive, instead of pushing technology to the background, as we’ve always believed.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook, 2015

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While Ive and Cook thought Google Glass was terrible, the company's many patent filings strongly suggest that new technology and innovation might help Apple succeed where Google failed. Timing, as they say, is everything.

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In 2017, Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, reported on Apple's AR glasses/headset project called "T288." Gurman said Apple was working on a system-on-chip specifically for the device and rOS (reality operating system) based on iOS.

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"Hey Siri..."

Voice control is likely to be an important control method of Apple's AR glasses. It was for Google Glass and it is for AirPods. "Hey Siri, show me directions to the nearest Chipotle." Apple is also reportedly testing touch panels and head gestures as inputs.

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A hybrid?

In 2018, CNET corroborrated the T288 project, adding the device would be a hybrid AR/VR headset. The site said the headset would feature 8K resolution per eye, which would be far greater resolution than even the best consumer VR headsets like the Quest 2.

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A headset that supports both AR and VR seems unlikely to us. Not only would it mean a bulkier and more power-hungry device, but Cook has repeatedly dismissed VR for its isolating experience.

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“I like our products amplifying thoughts and I think AR can help amplify the human connection. I've never been a fan of VR like that because I think it does the opposite.”

Tim Cook, 2017

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In May 2020, leaker Jon Prosser, who's accurately leaked devices like the AirPods Max and iPhone SE, made the dubious claim that Apple's AR headset would be called "Apple Glass." He also said the headset would be powered by an iPhone, include a LiDAR scanner (but no camera), support hand gesture controls, and charge wirelessly.

$499?

Prosser also said Apple is targeting $499 price.

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Apple has a history of releasing new products at under $500. The iPad launched at $499 in 2010 and the Apple Watch at $349 in 2015.

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The biggest giveaway the "leak" might be total BS was Prosser's claim there's a "Steve Jobs Edition." There's no chance in hell Apple is going to tarnish Jobs' legacy with such a tacky version.

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Development for Apple's AR glasses is ongoing. But any issues could delay or even lead to the rumored headset's cancellation. Hell, for all we know, Tim Cook's been living in the future and wearing AR glasses in plain sight.

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