Apple’s entry into the world of augmented reality has long been rumored, with many in the tech world seeing AR and VR as the next big platforms after mobile. But an exact entry date has been unclear, with some analysts suggesting a 2020 launch.
As well as the new timeline, The Information’s report offers new detail about Apple’s AR headset, codenamed N301. The device supposedly resembles a slimmer version of the Oculus Quest, a virtual reality headset released in May. It has AR and VR capabilities, uses external cameras to map the user’s surroundings (including the outlines of people, furniture, and rooms), and has a high-resolution display to show information and blend virtual objects with the real world.
After Apple has built this larger headset it plans to release a smaller pair of AR glasses. Unlike the headset, these will be designed to be worn for longer periods of time, with The Information reporting that “current prototypes look like high-priced sunglasses with thick frames that house the battery and chips,” according to a person who has seen prototypes. Apple has also reportedly explored lenses that darken when in operation, to signal to observers that the user is otherwise occupied.
Both devices will make use of a “new 3D sensor system” which is a more advanced version of the Face ID camera found in iPhones and the iPad Pro today.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously said that he regards augmented reality as “a big idea, like the smartphone,”
Apple’s AR glasses seem designed to fulfill this promise, with The Information reporting that senior managers have said they believe the device could supplant the iPhone in about a decade.
As the smartphone market matures, Apple and many other tech companies are looking to virtual and augmented reality as the next big tech platforms. The iPhone maker has been building up resources in this area for years, buying tech from smaller companies and dedicating more employees to the project. Rivals like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have also been investing heavily in this area through projects like HoloLens and Oculus.