Some of you might know that Apple is working on a pair of AR glasses. Now in case you don’t know what those are, well I’ll explain everything you need to know in this article, alongside why these glasses have the potential of revolutionising the tech industry entirely, just like the iPhone did back in 2007.
I’m personal extremely excited about these, and you will most certainly be as well, by the end of this.
Grab some popcorn and here’s the real future of the tech industry!
Ok, so for those of you who don’t know what AR is, AR means augmented reality and unlike VR or virtual reality where you put this giant headset on and you’re transported into a fully virtual world, AR keeps you in the real world but it ads certain virtual elements to it.
We’ve recently started seeing AR being used in smartphones, like the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Apple released ARKit which is pretty much an API. In simple English it’s a tool that allows developers to easily make AR apps that would automatically take advantage of all the sensors that the iPhone has, such as the accelerometer, the gyroscope, the dual and now the triple lens camera module and so on.
So we started seeing apps such as IKEA’s Place app that allows you to place furniture from their store, inside your real world view. That app works incredibly well, the tracking is spot on, it never lost the tracking and the furniture even had real time shadows as well as the ability to get very close to them and see all the details so I was extremely impressed with what this app can do. I recently moved into a new apartment which is still empty so I’ll be using this app to buy some furniture in the upcoming weeks and it’s been great!
And Apple has put so much resources into ARKit that they got to a point where we have real-time shadows on objects, real-time reflections where lights from the real world will get reflected onto the virual objects which is just nuts. But what’s probably even crazier is that with ARKit 3, virtual objects can detect the presence of a real person and circle around it for example.
While I do see VR as more suitable for games and entertainment in general, I see AR as suited more towards productivity.
And this is why having this AR experience all the time, without having to use your smartphone would be a game-changer. This is where Apple’s upcoming AR headset comes into play.
And the questions you all probably have regarding this headset are:
1. How will it work?
2. What would it look like?
3. How much will it cost?
1. HOW WILL IT WORK?
So let’s start off with how it will work?
Ok, so there’s multiple ways that you can build such a headset. Usually VR headsets are big, bulky and they connect to your PC via an actual cable.
There are a few examples such as the Oculus Quest which are completely wireless, and that is where the future of VR is heading towards. When it comes to Apple their AR headset will indeed be fully wireless as well.
There’s been quite a number of patents that Apple has applied for, all showing a very thin and light device, that looks pretty much like a regular pair of glasses. CNET even released a pretty big report back in 2018, with some details that they got from inside sources, on how Apple’s AR glasses would work like.
The project is apparently called T288 internally, and even back in 2018 it was still aimed at a 2020 release, just like more recent reports have all pointed towards.
CNET did detail that Apple is actually planning on making this a fully wireless device. So instead of Apple building the processor and everything inside the headset, this would be built into a different device, which would then render the entire scene and transmit the video stream to the glasses. This means the glasses will just act as the display, but a different device will actually render the entire scene. Otherwise, the glasses would have to be very thick, in order to accommodate a large battery that would be required for driving such a powerful processor. In case you’re wondering, the glasses will also be housing multiple cameras for tracking the environment, very similar to the Oculus Quest’s cameras, it’s just that the processing would be done outside of the headset.
Now CNET did also mention that Apple will have a separate box that would be processing all the data from the headset. However, Ming-Chi-Kuo, who’s been pretty much the most reliable source in terms of Apple leaks, reported earlier this year in MacRumors that the separate processing box would actually be the iPhone and that the AR Glasses would be “marketed as an iPhone accessory”. So this would be similar to the Apple Watch or the AirPods, essentially a new product category that would go hand in hand with the iPhone.
Another report from Bloomberg, that we got back in 2017, pointed towards the exact same thing. It suggested that Apple was working on an AR headset that would release in 2020, and that would eventually even end up replacing the iPhone. In the first few years, it will need the iPhone for processing power, but once the chips get even more power efficient and we hopefully get a new battery technology, that would not be required anymore.
Now that’s all well and good, but what will you be able to do with the Apple Glasses?
Well essentially you would be able to see everything from your iPhone directly in front of your eyes. So things such as; your messages, your Instagram feed, your emails, all of that would be viewable at all times right in front of your eyes. It would not take your entire feel of view, but instead, a small window overlay would display all of that data, and it’s very likely that you would be able to reposition that window, resize it and so on. The AR Glasses themselves will have Siri integration so most of the interaction will be done by voice and by some touch panels which are said to be embedded into the frame itself.
So that’s pretty cool but what else will it be able to do?
Well, the uses cases that I would personally love to see would be integration with Maps, so that you can see arrows and real time directions on the street itself, right in front of your eyes. Google Maps recently had an update with AR integration, so now you can just lift your phone and you would indeed get real time directions in the real world as to which exact way to go. This is just on smartphones at the moment, but imagine having this on a pair of AR Glasses, that would be incredible!
But the most useful case scenario, for me at least, would be just having loads of displays anywhere I am. Imagine having three big curved monitors surrounding you, or even a room full of displays, or just a gigantic display right on your work-desk or even floating above it that you wouldn’t be able to have normally.
Speaking of displays, one of the current issues with AR and VR today is the pixel density of the display panels. The lower the resolution of the display is, the lower the pixel density will be and the more pixels you will actually see when you put the headset one, which will create this very blurry and grainy effect.
The Oculus Quest for example, which is by far the best VR headset that I have used, has a resolution of 1440x1600 per each eye which is pretty high, it’s actually on par with the HTC Vive Pro. But you see, even with such a high resolution display, I can still easily see the pixels and the image quality just isn’t realistic at all. We’re still years ahead of extremely high resolution displays on VR and AR headsets.
However CNET did mention in their report that Apple would be using 8K displays in their headset! To give context, VR headsets today have close to a 2K display per eye and Apple wants to use an 8K display per eye! That’s insane! With a resolution like that, per eye, you should be able to see a perfectly clear image, without any pixilation at all, or at least barely even noticeable.
But can the iPhone drive two 8K displays whilst calculating everything required for the AR Tracking in real time? Well considering that the Apple A10X processor that’s inside the AppleTV 4K can actually handle full 4K output and even 4K games albeit mobile ones, and that the Apple A13 processor that we have in this year’s iPhone 11’s is pretty much twice more powerful than that, and the Apple A14 chip which will be coming out next year will be the first to be based on a 5nm process and it should smoke the A13 chip. Well, it’s looking pretty likely that the A14 will indeed be able to push dual 8K output for the Apple AR Glasses.
2. WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE?
Ok, so that was a fairly long section since how it would work is the most interesting and important part of the headset, but now let’s see what it would look like.
Well, considering Apple’s patents and the fact that the glasses themselves will only be streaming the data from the iPhone rather than calculating that itself, they should look very similar to traditional glasses.
Apple does already have two wearable devices, the Apple Watch and the AirPods, and they both look good. They have an elegant look to them, however we can all agree that they do have a weird/unique look. For example, the Apple Watch is rectangular and you can immediately tell when someone’s wearing an Apple Watch compared to a regular watch, or any other smartwatch for example. The same goes for the AirPods they have this very weird and distinct look to them, and you can always tell when someones wearing them. So I do believe that the Apple Glasses would have a similar look. They would still look like glasses, but they will have Apple’s unique taken on them with a more unusual design.
In our concept we actually made it in a realistic way, with a fairly thick frame that houses the battery and the chips for capturing the 3D data and then sending it over to the iPhone. We have three cameras on the front and then two more on each side, for special awareness. We have the wireless charging coils because let’s be real, Apple will very likely use a similar charging system as to what they already use in the Apple Watch and the AirPods, so wireless charging. The speakers would be bone conducting speakers, so the grills that you see there are just for the design actually and for airflow. This is of course our take on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple does something similar. Like I said, a pair of glasses that looks a bit more unique than the rest, just like the AirPods and the Apple Watch.
3. HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
Now this is actually a bit of a tricky one because you see in order for Apple to make the best possible AR Glasses, they would need to charge loads. This is a truly futuristic device that won’t be cheap to make by any means. But at the same time, Apple simply cannot price this at say $3000 since who would really buy it in that case?
The rumoured price is around $1000-$1500 at this point, which I still think is very high and I don’t see many people buying this considering that it is not a phone, but instead an accessory that you also need an iPhone for.
What I think Apple should do is make the best Apple Glasses that they can, even if it costs them $3000 per unit and then price it very low, at $300 or so, around the same price as an Apple Watch costs. If they did this they would sell loads, and then they can make their money back through software purchases. That’s what I would do.
But whatever price Apple decides to sell them for, we know that they are definitely happening. We have multiple reports from Ming-Chi-Kuo, DigiTimes, Bloomberg and even actual code found in iOS 13, that points towards Apple actively working on the AR Glasses. Apple even applied for a patent that allows you to adjust the opacity of the display so that AR objects are more or less visible in the real world, apparently.
However, something that I find to be even more interesting is a recent report coming from DigiTimes that claims that Apple has partnered with Valve to develop the AR headset. Valve has just released their own headset, the Valve Index, which is pretty much the highest end VR headset that you can buy, and the HTC Vive and the Vive Pro had both been made in partnership with Valve. So Valve has been in the VR industry for quite a few years now and it’s definitely been one of the pioneers of VR and Apple partnering with them is just some amazing news!
So there you have it, all the latest we know about the upcoming AR Glasses. I am personally really excited to see how these turn out, but we will have to wait until next year at least. Let me know what you guys think in the comments.