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It's been a little over a week since a report about Apple's augmented reality plans crossed our radar, which means today's report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is actually slightly overdue. This time Kuo claimed that Apple plans to start production on its first AR product, a pair of smartglasses, by 2Q20 at the latest.
According to 9to5Mac today, Kuo reportedly said the first generation of what we assume will be called the Apple Glasses will rely on a paired iPhone for pretty much everything: computing, rendering, connectivity, location services, etc. The glasses themselves will have some smarts--they have to if they're going to work well--but the iPhone will be the "brain."
That seems like a distinctly Apple approach to AR. It's hard to imagine the company releasing a headset like those made by HTC Vive, Oculus, and their counterparts. The company's products are status symbols as much as they are computing devices; it wouldn't expect its customers to look like they're in an old sci-fi movie.
Of course, that's assuming the company is actually working on AR products, which hasn't been officially confirmed. But as we noted when Apple reportedly met with AR companies at CES 2019, it's bought up so many companies working in the space that it would be weirder for it not to release something like what Kuo described.
Here's the timeline we shared in January:
- 2015: Apple acquires Metaio, a phone-based AR company we covered at that year's Mobile World Congress, for an undisclosed sum.
- 2017: Apple acquires SMI, a company whose eye tracking technology was used by companies like Valve and Qualcomm, for an undisclosed sum.
- 2017: Apple acquires Vrvana, which made the Totem HMD we called the best VR demo we'd ever seen, for an undisclosed sum.
- 2018: Apple acquires Akonia Holographics, which turned to AR after working on holographic data storage, for an undisclosed sum.
Rumors intensified after Apple was granted a patent covering AR-enabled navigation. (The company filed the patent in 2017; it wasn't granted until this February.) Combine that with Kuo's claim that mass production will begin in the last quarter of 2019, or at least by the second quarter of 2020, and more rumors will swirl.
Kuo's timeline also matches a Bloomberg report from 2017 that said Apple "aims to have technology ready for an augmented-reality headset in 2019 and could ship a product as early as 2020." At this point, even we'd be upset if Apple doesn't finally reveal an AR product in that timeframe, if only so we can stop wondering.