Apple is reportedly working behind the scenes on a new digital glasses product. The device, if Apple ever builds it, will take advantage of augmented reality, laying digital information on top of the real world that a user can see by peering through the glass lenses.
That sort of functionality is similar to what Google attempted with the failed Google Glass product. A user would peer through a small glass lens to see additional information, for example. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that he sees a future in augmented reality and that his company is betting big on the technology over virtual reality, which blocks a user out from the real world.
Bloomberg, which broke news of the story this week, said Apple wouldn’t launch the product until 2018 at the earliest. It also said Apple is just now starting to talk to suppliers. The news outlet said Apple is still “in the exploration stage.”
Indeed, there’s already evidence of this. Apple has several patents related to augmented reality, a few images of which are included above. It also acquired German augmented reality firm Metaio last year, and it has reportedly poached top AR talent from competitors, including a HoloLens engineer from Microsoft.
Do consumers even want digital glasses?
Apple will need to prove to users that the glasses are not only functional but fashionable. Google had a hard time with the latter. Google Glass also faced criticism because the camera function could be used by a wearer without someone else’s knowledge. Oddly enough, Snapchat’s Spectacles, which launched last week, seem to have fallen nicely in the middle, allowing a user to record video while also looking relatively normal.
It’s smart of Apple to at least consider this space. It’s one of the only big tech players that hasn’t really launched a VR or AR product. Microsoft, Samsung, LG, Google and others have all dabbled in one or the other. We’ll see if Apple decides to enter.