In mid-July, reports emerged that Apple had finally mothballed its long-awaited augmented reality (AR) glasses project. The tech giant had been working on its version of Google Glass since 2015. However, The Information recently stated that the company has restarted its smart lenses project with the goal of releasing a headset shortly.
Development History of Apple’s AR Glasses
In the last four years, Apple has dedicated a lot of resources to creating AR glasses. The firm launched an initiative called Apple ARKit to develop consumer augmented reality solutions last year. Meanwhile, it also purchased a smart lens startup called Akonia Holographics in 2018 to further its product development.
However, the project reportedly stalled out because Apple’s engineers couldn’t decide on how to utilize the technology. Some designers wanted to fit the product with a built-in display a la Google Glass. Others believed the firm’s AR headset should integrate the iPhone as a viewing screen. Though Apple allegedly wanted to release its smart eyewear in 2020, a lack of tangible development made that timeframe unlikely.
To make things worse, Apple designer Avi Bar-Zeev reportedly left his position as the lead for the smart glasses project in January. His departure caused the corporation to either temporarily or permanently shut down the project.
However, Apple reportedly got the initiative back on track late last month by assigning executive Kim Vorrath to head its AR division. As Vorrath has a reputation for being a taskmaster, industry observers speculated that the move was a signal of Apple renewing its interest to release a smart headset. Along with this, the firm also posted new job listings for software, graphics, user interface, and system frameworks engineers with AR.
While Apple has recently taken steps to reposition itself as a services company, it might have one more revolutionary product up its sleeve.
Though Google has faced consumer indifference and widespread privacy criticism surrounding its smart glasses product, the concept is experiencing an improbable comeback. In addition to Apple’s AR headset, several other tech companies are developing their own internet-enabled eyewear.
Earlier this week, Snapchat revealed that it is bringing back its branded smart eyewear. The social network announced it would release Spectacles 3 smart sunglasses in November. The new version of the product, which records video in 3D, retails for $380 and is available for preorder now.
In 2016, the firm launched the first iteration of its headset, but the product failed to connect with the public. Ultimately, the company took a $40 million loss on its failed AR initiative.
Furthermore, in July, Hypebeast reported that Samsung filed a patent which seemingly suggested it would try to develop its own smart glasses. The corporation’s filing indicated that a tiny projector would give users an Iron Man-style heads up display.
Lastly, embattled Chinese conglomerate Huawei has plans to break into the mainly theoretical smart glasses market. In March, the corporation announced it was partnering with South Korean fashion company Gentle Monster to develop AR eyewear.
The firm boasted that its camera-less glasses would be dust and water-resistant and feature a 2200mAh battery. However, the new product missed its tentative July launch date. The delay is presumably a result of the company being blacklisted by the United States government.
Although the era of smart glasses isn’t imminent, it feels inevitable. Truly, concepts supported by multibillion-dollar corporations usually are.