Apple Glasses: news, rumors, expectations

The Apple Glasses have been the primary topic of an on-again off-again rumor for several years now. When the Vision Pro released, opinions shifted towards Apple having indefinitely postponed the Glasses project. But that no longer seems the case.

A new patent submission proved that even if not actively in development, the Apple Glasses are very much a concept that the Big A wants to explore. And a bit after that, a leak of an internal Apple roadmap suggested that the Apple Glasses may be coming after all.

But let's clear things up before we dive in: the Apple Glasses aren't the Vision Pro. Now, asking "what's the difference" is still a valid question. We know a lot about Apple's first XR headset, but the Big A's concept for AR glasses has changed a lot over the years.

The difference between AR and VR

You may have heard of VR (virtual reality) headsets, as they grew in popularity after 2012's launch of the Oculus Rift. They're usually large, bulky and expensive gaming-oriented devices that are designed to entirely block your eyes from seeing the real world. Because of that, they can be truly immersive for both gaming and professional tasks, such as pilot training. However, their bulk, immersion and reliance on a computer or a gaming console makes them unusable on the go, not to mention unfashionable.

However, AR (augmented reality) is different. AR glasses are see-through, as they use transparent lenses, and most simply add a digital overlay over your normal field of vision. For that to work, AR glasses can project a tiny screen on one or both of their lenses for the user to see. The design of AR glasses is also usually light and portable, similar to normal glasses, meaning they can be used outside.

Various leakers have hinted that Apple could be working on both AR glasses and a separate VR/AR headset. We have now come to know the latter as the Vision Pro: Apple's first MR (mixed reality) focused spatial computer. 

In theory, it would be reasonable to expect the Apple Glasses to be something like an upgraded version of the Google Glass project. They could overlay HUD elements over the user's vision and interpret input in order to help the wearer achieve various goals. The real question here, however, is if these capabilities will extend beyond AR and into the real of MR, like on the Vision Pro

Rumored Apple AR glasses price

Although it's expected that Apple's first AR/VR headset will cost quite a pretty penny (leakers claim around $3,000), reputable insiders are already saying that Apple is in development of cheaper models, possibly to come out in 2024.

Last year, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo shared his expectations for an Apple AR headset to be priced at around $1,000. Alternatively, a late September 2021 report coming from Digitimes suggested a price of $2,000; and a higher price is certainly more plausible.

Other reputable analysts and leakers, such as Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, are also claiming a high price of around $3,000.

Apple AR glasses latest leaks:

Apple AR glasses speculated release date

If the latest leak, related to Apple's alleged five-year roadmap, turns out to be legitimate, that would mean that we'll have to wait awhile before seeing the Apple Glasses in action. The roadmap has them destined for 2027 for a launch alongside Apple's first foldable iPad. Exciting stuff, if true. 

For a time, the consensus among tech-insiders such as Mark Gurman was that Apple has postponed the Apple Glasses project indefinitely. While fans still believe in the concept, only time will tell if the Big A decides to bring it back from the semi-dead after the Vision Pro is out in the wild. 

The current consensus among some of the more reputable leakers, including Mark Gurman, is that Apple is going to unveil an Apple AR/VR headset very soon, on June 5th, 2023, during the WWDC event. And as we now know: that turned out to be the Vision Pro.

However, this would be a different product from the Apple AR glasses, which themselves Gurman speculates to be "at least four years away" from being introduced, if ever.

Apple's smart AR glasses have been in development since at least early 2017. Around that time, Apple CEO Tim Cookshared his excitement for AR during an interview, calling it "huge", but also suggesting that the technology might not be ready yet "for the mainstream".

Over the years, Apple was granted several patents related to what are likely the Apple AR glasses, along with possibly a separate VR-like headset. In 2020, various rumors suggested a possible Apple glasses launch in 2021 or 2022, but so far, they all turned false.

However, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested an entire Apple AR product roadmap starting at 2022 with the release of a "helmet type" Apple AR headset, then a "glasses type" one by 2025 and a "contact lens type by 2030–2040".

The Apple AR glasses we're talking would be the "glases type" in Kuo's timeline, so him, like Gurman earlier, don't expect them anytime soon, at least not in the next 2-3 years.

In the meantime
... you may be interested in checking out the following AR glasses that are already out:

Apple AR glasses design speculations

And Apple glasses concept art.

The leaked five-year roadmap suggests that the Apple Glasses will have 1.4" MicroLED or MicroOLED screens, but not much beyond that. 

The latest on the concept is a patent submission, which was uncovered online. The entire thing is phrased in such a dubious manner, because it isn't entirely clear if the patent is related to the Vision Pro or about some new sort of product.

But even the latter doesn't necessarily need to be the Apple Glasses. It could absolutely be related to a variant of the Vision Pro: some sort of experimental model, as Apple has been clear that such variants are very much being considered internally. 

Here's the interesting part, though: the patent was submitted alongside 85 other entries and among them, all that are related to the Vision Pro are explicitly noted as such. The ones that remain are soo "lite" that even including them on a Vision Lite headset wouldn't make that much sense. 

So could this mean that Apple is still contemplating making a pair of smart AR glasses? Time will tell. 

As is to be expected from Apple, its smart glasses will be as sleek and stylish as the technology inside would allow for. In May of 2020, leaker Jon Prosser said during a podcast that the Apple glasses would resemble traditional glasses, which is plausible. Their design would steer away from resembling "heavy machinery on your face" and will be targeted at regular consumers.

Allegedly, in 2020 Apple had both black and white Apple AR glasses prototypes that were seen by the leaker. He also mentioned that prescription lenses will be supported by Apple glasses, which suggests that their lenses might be interchangeable.

Apple AR glasses displays expectations

This is our speculation based on other AR glasses we've seen - Apple's AR glasses will probably sport either one or two tiny projectors in each frame, which would cast an image onto the lenses. The image would appear to the observer as an overlay to their environment.

If the Apple glasses can project into both lenses by employing two projectors, one for each lens, certain apps could easily feature 3D effects.

Back in 2019, a CNET report suggested that the Apple glasses would project in 8K, meaning an impressive 7680 x 4320 pixel resolution for each eye.

Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that Apple will use Sony Micro-OLED displays and optical modules for a "see-through AR experience," but will also be capable of providing a "a VR experience".

Apple AR glasses speakers and microphones speculations

We speculate that Apple's AR glasses will likely sport at least two speakers, one in each frame and close to the user's ears, like many existing AR and VR devices today.

This isn't unlike other modern smart glasses, for example the Amazon Echo Frames. Despite not having a display, those have four tiny speakers, two in each frame, in addition to a microphone. While wearing them, the user can interact with the Amazon Alexa smart assistant and hear feedback from it.

A February 25th patent filed by Apple revealed that the Apple glasses might employ a large array of microphones covering it. The patent in question has the microphones detect sounds, even those that are beyond human hearing, and suggests that some sort of indicators will be used for "directing the user to the source of the sound”. Like most Apple glasses-related patents, it's uncertain whether this one will have anything to do with the final product, or was related to an idea for a feature that is already scrapped.

Apple AR glasses software speculations and rumors

Leaked name: realityOS (dubbed ‘rOS’ internally)

The most recent leaks claim that Apple reportedly has two AR/VR platforms in the works - one based on iOS (rOS, a.k.a. reality Operating System) and the other on macOS (xrOS, a.k.a. Extended Reality Operating System). Clearly one of those AR devices will work solely with your iPhone, while the other - your MacBook; with Apple's AR glasses in particular likely to employ rOS.

In May of 2020, a leaker claimed that Apple's smart glasses will run on a new operating system or UI, codenamed "StarBoard". Back in late 2019, code that was discovered inside internal builds of iOS 13 did refer to codenames "StarBoard" and "STARTester". The latter was presumed to be an app which would detect whether Apple's AR glasses (also codenamed "T288") were being "worn" or "held." Along with that, the app was supposedly used to recreate what the wearer would see through the Apple glasses on an iPhone – likely for interface testing purposes.

It's likely that the Apple glasses will rely on the user's iPhone to do the processing for them, as was suggested by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Similarly to Amazon's Echo Frames smart glasses, Apple glasses users will be able to interact with a smart assistant (Siri in this case) by voice, ask it to call a contact, answer questions, make a note, play a podcast and so on.

Other Apple glasses features will likely include showing the wearer their iPhone notifications, displaying messages, map directions and other useful content. Like with Apple Watch, the Apple glasses would probably get their own app store, containing 3D AR games and other dedicated AR apps.

The Apple glasses will have 5G connectivity according to leaker Jon Prosser.

Speculated Apple AR glasses controls

Touch, voice, a ring, gloves? How will I interact with Apple glasses?

In mid-2019, an Apple application revealed that the company is working on magnetic sensing technology for detecting whether the user is wearing special gloves. In the patent, such gloves are shown to be used for interacting with the Apple glasses via gestures.

Apple might also decide on a more discreet way of controlling the Apple glasses, like touch controls embedded in their frame or via a smart ring for touchless gesture controls.

Additionally, a future Apple Watch could be able to support air gestures, for interacting with Apple's AR glasses.

The latest rumors have also suggested using a digital crown (like the one on the Apple Watch) to navigate, or a pointing device worn on the user's finger. Those are all allegedly ways to navigate that were being tested by Apple, and we're yet to know for sure which input method the company would select for the final product.

Apple AR glasses camera speculations

Will Apple's smart glasses have a camera? Or LiDAR?

Due to privacy reasons, it seems unlikely that Apple's smart AR glasses will have a built-in camera. One of the main criticisms towards Google's attempt at AR glasses (Google Glass) was that its built-in camera could be used to record people in public without their knowledge or consent. Because Google Glass had a built-in camera, wearing it was additionally banned in certain public areas, such as casinos and movie theaters.

Learning from this, most manufacturers of AR glasses don't include cameras anymore, nor would Apple, most likely.

However, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects an Apple AR headset to actually sport a whole 15 cameras, with eight of them used for AR video. As previously acknowledged, this could be a different device from the Apple VR glasses, that the Cupertino company is also working on. Apple Glass itself is still unlikely to have cameras and will focus just on AR, while the potential Apple VR headset is rumored to focus on both AR and VR.

On the subject of cameras, Apple's LiDAR sensor, which we've seen on the iPad Pro and iPhone 12 Pro could make it into Apple's smart glasses. Taking in consideration that LiDAR isn't capable of capturing clear photos and videos of people like a standard camera, and will be useful for scanning the user's environment in order to enhance AR apps, Apple might be able to avoid potential privacy concerns despite including it.

Apple AR glasses battery and charging speculations

Due to the size constraints of their design, Apple's glasses won't be able to employ large batteries, so the device will need to be energy efficient. A small battery cell would likely be integrated into each frame of the glasses.

Several Apple patent applications, which were published in March of 2020 suggested that Apple is considering its glasses to charge wirelessly on a dedicated dock. Judging by the most plausible patent, the glasses will contain magnets and coils that will connect with the dock, allowing for inductive charging.

Latest Apple news:

The Apple Glasses are still in the making, but far from an actual release

Now that WWDC 2023 has passed, it is time to face the reality of the situation: the Vision Pro is going to be the main product that Apple focuses on for the time being. AR enthusiasts still have something to look forward to, as the headset does seem very promising in terms of augmented reality.

But where did that leave the Apple Glasses, which are focused on that singular concept? Well, the good news is that there haven't been any signs pointing to a cancellation, so development is still underway. 

According to Mark Gurman, however, Apple is still years away from introducing its fans to a product like Glasses. Mark gives the example as "four years", but in reality we don't know how solid that estimate is, as it is likely to change based on how well the Vision Pro itself will manage, after it is released.

And that is highly likely to be the case, because as previously stated, the Vision Pro headset is offering loads of AR features. So if users cling to them and find them appealing, making a cheaper, more lightweight and AR-centric alternative would simply be a no-brainer, right? 

Well, Glasses is likely to become that specific product, as long as all the stars align. 
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