Apple AR – Will Apple Vision Pro Rewrite What We Expect from AR Glasses
According to MacRumors, Apple has been exploring virtual reality and augmented reality technologies for more than 10 years based on patent filings, but with virtual and augmented reality exploding in popularity with the launch of ARKit, Apple’s dabbling is growing more serious and could lead to an actual dedicated AR/VR product in the not too distant future.
Apple rewrote the playbook when they released what we expected from mobile phones. In 2007, Steve Jobs publicly announced the iPhone at a MacWorld conference, which changed everything. Mobile phones were not new. But Apple created a magical experience, and everyone wanted one! Back then, our team members were developing Apps for J2ME devices, and frankly, the hardware was boring and not magical. Then Apple rocked the industry by launching a development platform and a store for developers to distribute and sell their Apps. Apple changed the mobile world. With the rumors of an AR device, can they change the world again?
Apple is rumored to have a secret research unit with hundreds of employees working on AR and VR and exploring ways the emerging technologies could be used in future Apple products.
Apple’s current AR technology stack is the most impressive, and Groove Jones was an early adapter. Check out the work we did using the Beta version of ARKit, which we built with American Airlines in 2017. (Fun fact – Groove Jones co-founder Dan Ferguson helped create the first American Airlines mobile App in 2010.)
American Airlines AR Wayfinding case study – https://groovejones.com/american_airlines_arkit/
We were early adaptors of Apple’s ARKit when it was in Beta, and we’ve been pushing the limits of the software and hardware since.
Check out the work we have been doing with Toyota for product visualization and sales enablement.
Lexus LARK user manual – https://groovejones.com/toyota_tec_ar/
Toyota TRD Pro AR uses AR for product merchandising. Case study – https://groovejones.com/toyota_trd_ar/
Apple AR – Apple Glass?
Apple is said to be working on multiple virtual and augmented reality headset prototypes as engineers search for the “most compelling application” for such a device, and current rumors indicate that Apple’s first product will be an augmented reality headset and/or glasses. According to The Information, Apple is working on two AR projects, including an augmented reality headset set to be released in 2022, followed by a sleeker pair of glasses in 2023.
Well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects the AR glasses to be marketed as an iPhone accessory and will primarily take a display role, offloading computing, networking, and positioning to the iPhone. Offering the AR glasses as an iPhone accessory will allow Apple to keep them slim and lightweight.
This is similar to the approach Magic Leap took, but it pales compared to the power of Apple’s mobile devices processing power.
Using an iPhone as a processor will give Apple a distinct advantage. If the glasses integrate the same camera functionality currently available with the line of iPhones, then we expect it to meet or exceed current functionality like a powerful SLAM and image recognition capability. If they integrate LIDAR, similar to what is available on higher-end iPhone devices like the iPhone 12 Pro or iPad Pro, it will unlock more AR capabilities, including better object recognition, occlusion and precise environment location capabilities. LIDAR is a method for measuring distances by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor.
Apple’s LIDAR scanner’s data is crunched together with data from cameras and a motion sensor, then enhanced by computer vision algorithms on the new Apple A14 Bionic chip creating a seamless AR experience that makes it hard for the eye to detect differences between what is real and what is digital.
The key thing that no one has seen is the lens display and what that will look like. According to patents filed by Apple and numerous industry insiders (and rumors), they will be glasses. Potentially ones that look similar to Ray-Ban Wayfarers or Tim Cook’s glasses. One rumor is that there will be a limited-edition “Steve Jobs Heritage” version of the smart glasses designed to look like the round, frameless mirrors that Steve Jobs used to wear, but Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman has called this rumor “complete fiction.”
Now, we do not have any insight into the hardware that Apple is working on outside of what is being published, but we can see where everything is heading based on what Apple has done since the original iPhone. AR-enabled glasses are looking more like a reality than a rumor.
Reference articles on Apples AR work on MacRumors for further reading