Here's everything we know about Apple's rumored smart glasses, which could arrive as soon as next year
Dave SmithMar 9, 2019, 06.45 PM
Apple is rumored to release a pair of smart glasses as early as 2020.
We've rounded up all of the details from reports over the years to give you an idea of what Apple might eventually release.
Apple is reportedly working on a pair of smart glasses.
The device is said to be an augmented reality (AR) headset, which overlays virtual images on top of what you see in the real world. Think "Pokémon Go," where you see the real world through your phone's camera, but digital Pokémon can also be seen depending on where you are. Instead of a smartphone, though, this would be a pair of glasses you wear directly in front of your eyes, likely paired with and powered by your iPhone.
The first reports of Apple's smart glasses started around 2015, so we've rounded up all of the rumors and news since that time to give you an idea of what to expect.
Apple reportedly started putting a team together to build virtual and augmented reality headsets in 2015, shortly after the launch of the Apple Watch.
Apple poached engineers from rival companies working on similar technologies: It hired Nick Thompson in 2015, who was an engineer for Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality headset.
According to Bloomberg, Apple’s initial AR efforts were spearheaded by Mike Rockwell, who was previously the head of engineering at Dolby Labs.
Rockwell was reportedly managing several hundred Apple engineers “scattered across office parks in both Cupertino and Sunnyvale, California.” His team was behind Apple’s ARKit, which let software developers build their own AR applications for iPhones and iPads.
In May 2015, Apple bought a German company called Metaio, which was working on augmented-reality tech that let you visualize Ikea furniture in your home, for example.
In January 2016, a report from The Financial Times said Apple had assembled a team of 100+ people to build prototypes for virtual and augmented reality headsets.
Apple also purchased Flyby Media in January 2016. Flyby notably worked with Google on its Project Tango technology, which let devices “see” the world around them, using augmented reality to help mobile devices capture maps of the environment in real-time.
In 2017, Bloomberg dropped a massive report on Apple's AR headset plans, saying the technology would be ready in 2019, and a product could ship as early as 2020.
Bloomberg's report said Apple’s smart glasses would run on a new system-on-a-chip, like the A-series chips that power iPhones, and an all-new operating system, internally called “rOS,” for “reality operating system.”
Bloomberg said Apple was looking into different ways for users to control the headset and launch apps, including “touch panels, voice-activation via Siri and head gestures.”
Apple was also said to be making a handful of applications for rOS, including “virtual meeting rooms and 360-degree video playback.” It was also considering ways to make a version of the App Store for rOS.
In 2018, Apple bought Akonia Holographics, a startup that made lenses for augmented-reality glasses. This was the first clear indication of how Apple might make optical displays that could be thin and light enough to fit into glasses, but also create AR imagery bright enough for outdoor use.
In March, a new research note from Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the most reliable and accurate Apple analysts in the world said Apple was planning to mass produce its first smart glasses “in the middle of next year,” which would be marketed as an iPhone accessory.
Kuo’s research note said Apple’s AR glasses would wirelessly leverage the computing and networking of the iPhone in order to keep the glasses lightweight, in the same way much of the processing on the early Apple Watches was handled by iPhones.
Kuo says Apple is aiming to mass-produce the glasses as early as “the fourth quarter of this year,” but mentions the timeframe could be pushed back to “the second quarter of 2020.”
Apple has previously made some public statements about the potential of augmented reality. CEO Tim Cook in 2016 said "augmented reality will take some time to get right, but I do think that it's profound."
Apple’s design chief Jony Ive also said in 2017 that “there are certain ideas that we have and we are waiting for the technology to catch up with the idea.”