Apple could be gearing up to enter the augmented reality headset market with the launch of Apple Glasses and they could be announced at WWDC 2017. We're going with the name Apple Glasses for now, but the codename is thought to be Project Mirrorshade - Apple Iris.
It wouldn't necessarily be a huge surprise to see Apple enter the fray, although augmented reality has so far been shunned to the side to make way for virtual reality. Google, Oculus VR, Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, and others all either have VR headsets, or are developing new ones. In terms of AR, we've seen Google Glass and the Microsoft HoloLens.
Apple Glasses AR headset: Release date
Pinning down a release date for the Apple Glasses is still incredibly difficult right now. It's only been just recently that we've heard more concrete evidence to suggest the Glasses are an actual product Apple is working on.
Over the past year or so, Apple has filed patents, acquired-VR related companies, and hired VR experts. But still, there's no way to accurately peg a release date based on that.
However, during Apple's financial Q1 2016 earnings call, Tim Cook, the company's chief executive, was asked a question about virtual reality. Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray asked Cook if he had "any high-level thoughts" on VR.
"I know you can't talk about new products," Munster said to Apple's CEO, "Do you think this is more of a geeky niche, or something that could go mainstream?" It's a fair-enough question, to which Cook casually and quite simply responded: "In terms of virtual reality... uh, no. I don't think it's a niche. I think it can be… it's really cool, and has some interesting applications."
That's it. Short and sweet. But several reports are emphasising that Cook didn't dismiss the idea or discount any recent rumours, so now he has everyone thinking about whether Apple is investing in virtual reality hardware and applications. Piper Jaffray of course expects Apple to release a VR headset as early as 2017.
A Reddit Q&A thread posted by "Foxconninsider" lists more details about the Glasses, but says they're delayed until 2018/2019, and the project may be scrapped entirely.
Apple Glasses AR headset: Design
We unfortunately don't have any images or mock-ups of the alleged Apple Glasses to go on, but we do have some information from the Foxconninsider Reddit thread. This thread was set up by a worker at Foxconn, the manufacturer of the majority of Apple's products.
The information says the Glasses will adopt a P3 design, which means rounded lens, similar to the Snap Spectacles, and have a Kopin NED acetate frame, available in crystal, champagne and black colour finishes. Where the Apple Glasses could find success where Google's Glass project didn't, is in the fact Apple could offer polarised and prescription lenses. This would mean regular glasses wearers could swap out their current glasses and wear Apple's instead, with augmented reality data layered over the top.
Regardless of the lenses fitted, the Apple Glasses will use Zeiss smart optics and there will be different sizes for men and women.
Apple Glasses AR headset: Features
The Glasses will work by having an NED (Near Eye Display) unit in the right eye-lens. The resolution of the image you see is said to be 480 x 240. That seems low, but considering it will be viewed very close to the eye, the resulting image should be relatively clear.
Audio will be transmitted to your ears via bone induction, so that will likely mean you won't have to put anything headphones into your ears. Instead, from the bone induction technology we've previously seen, there will be a small module that will rest around your temple area and transmit audio via sound waves. It frees up your ears to be able to still hear the world around you.
Foxconninsider also says the Apple Glasses will have a built-in light sensor, an accelerometer for tracking your daily steps and head movements, whether it be to access different apps through the lenses or to change displayed information depending on what you're looking at.
A touch-sensitive strip should feature on one of the arms, and this will be used to accept/reject phone calls or change the volume, possibly of either the bone induction technology on the Glasses, or your iPhone if it's connected.
There will also be a magnetometer for navigational purposes, such as on-screen directions, a capacitive pavel ceramic battery and Apple's own chipset. There's currently no word on which Apple chip the Glasses will use.
Apple Glasses AR headset: Price
There might not be any real release date to go on, but Foxconninsider has been able to predict a price for the Apple Glasses. The worker responsible for the leaks says the Glasses could start at around $600, based on the price being 4x the bill of materials (BOM) cost.
However, the same worker points out that that means the BOM is $150, which isn't the case, as that doesn't include assembly, import duties, shipping, yield, returns and insurance. So the final figure could well be an awful lot more, especially is prescription lenses are thrown in.
There would likely be further revenue for Apple from the App Store, which will more than likely have dedicated apps to use with the Glasses.