Apple Has Reportedly Killed Its Augmented Reality Glasses Project
Apple’s plans to build Apple-branded augmented reality glasses had been treated with a great deal of enthusiasm and high expectations. Those dreams and anticipation have now come to naught as the tech giant has terminated its augmented reality glasses project. This will bring to a sudden end what was slated to be a major hardware project and a potential game-changer in the AR industry.
There are conflicting signals from the report. The same report also states that the project has been “temporarily stopped” so it is not clear yet whether the termination is permanent or whether Apple might restart it at a future date.
Apple has been publicly working on a number of augmented reality projects since 2017 when the ARKit was first unveiled. During that time, there were reports that Apple had already began working on an augmented reality headset project which was expected to launch in 2020. It was also reported that this headset would be running on a new chip along with an operating system known as “rOS”. With the time, talk of the headset shifted towards AR smart glasses which, it was reported, would work as an iPhone accessory, drawing its processing power from the Apple smartphone just as PC-based VR headsets like Rift and Rift S rely on high-spec PCs for processing functions. Other reports had also indicated that the smart glasses would be standalone devices but recent reports emerging before today’s announcement of the termination were pointing clearly in the direction of AR smart glasses that would rely on the smartphone for most of its computing needs pretty much like the Apple Watch
According to the news that has emerged today, the project has now been scrapped altogether so no more iGlasses hitting the market ever. The termination is curious in light of Apple’s recent acquisition of the augmented reality lens startup Akonia Holographics which analysts had interpreted as part of Apple’s build-up to bolster its AR arsenal in pursuit of some grand AR hardware project.
It had been expected that Apple’s entry into the augmented reality market was an inevitability given the massive prospects and opportunities that AR promises in a diverse array of sectors ranging from healthcare to engineering, travel, entertainment, video games, training and remote assistance among other applications. HTC managed to successfully re-pivot from smartphone manufacturing into virtual reality hardware. Industry analysts still expect Apple to eventually make a play for augmented reality and AR-enhanced wearables.
Speculations about Apple’s entry into the augmented reality hardware market were particularly rife following reports and leaks about the Apple AR glasses project by insiders such as the analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman. Ming-Chi Kuo has particularly had an impressive record with his predictions about upcoming projects and launches. However, according to a DigiTimes report, the team working on the new augmented reality glasses was disbanded way back in May and reassigned to other teams or departments.
It is not yet clear what specifically led Apple to terminate the project. DigiTimes is reporting that the decision was precipitated by the departure in January this year of Avi Bar-Zeev who was leading the augmented reality project team.
Apple venturing into the augmented reality market would go a long way in taking the technology to the mainstream given its robust reach and presence. The Apple brand is known for its sleek and elegant design which would be a welcome change from the current bulky and uncomfortable smart glasses designs like Microsoft HoloLens and the Magic Leap One smart glasses. According to the images of the designs that had been leaked in various reports, the Apple smart glasses would have a size and design similar to that of the normal eyeglasses with frames that would be slightly bigger to hold the internal components of the device.