A new report claims that Apple has been working on a pair of augmented-reality glasses for over a year, but its secretive plan to transform AR into into tech's 'next big thing' may be kept under wraps until after the iPhone's 10th anniversary celebration later this year.
With Apple's CEO Tim Cook talking up the technology in interviews as a more promising alternative to virtual reality, and growing evidence that a Cupertino-made pair of specs is on the way – potentially in collaboration with Carl Zeiss – Apple's rumoured goal of bringing AR to the masses seems all but certain.
However, according to a Financial Times report, Apple is ensuring that its new project does not steal the spotlight away from the 2017 iPhone by holding off on showing its headgear until 2018 at the earliest. This lends credence to the idea that the "iPhone 8" could include AR capabilities via its rumoured new camera tech.
Nevertheless, the report does state that the company's big augmented reality push will become the "top priority for its next big launch", ahead of Apple's automotive plans. "Apple first began to build a team to examine the feasibility of a head-worn device more than a year ago," claims FT.
"Now, it is devoting more resources to its augmented-reality efforts, with the aim of taking it from a science project towards a consumer product." The report cites "people familiar with the company's plans," although Apple declined to comment on the claims.
While a retail product is looking more and more likely to materialise from Apple's transparent interest in augmented reality, what exactly a Jony Ive-designed AR device would be like is another matter entirely.
FT's report gives us a few more hints in this regard, noting that "[Apple's] engineers have become more adept at miniaturisation technology with products such as its AirPods wireless headphones and the iPad's Pencil," which it believes will result in a "light-field eyewear" with a smaller form factor and wider field of view than Microsoft's HoloLens, but "larger than a regular pair of glasses".
As for price, the unnamed sources alleged that it could retail for "around $1,000" (£800, €920)when combined with the headgear's necessary accessories – reportedly a wearable pocket or belt attachment pack which provides battery and processing power.
With the $3,000 Microsoft HoloLens aimed primarily at the business market, Google's Project Tango clawing the Silicon Valley giant back from the ignoble failure of Google Glass, mixed reality-championing start-up Magic Leap beset by legal troubles, and Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook waiting in the wings, Apple's entry into the nascent augmented reality landscape could define the technology's long-term future.