Apple is testing several different variations and prototypes of its wearable augmented reality tech as it attempts to find the best way to move forward, according to a new report.
The tech giant is trying to figure out the “most compelling application” for a standalone AR device, according to sources with knowledge of Apple’s plans cited by The Financial Times on Friday. Augmented reality has become “a particular area of experimentation” at Cupertino, according to the report, but the company is still working with various prototypes to find the best style, type and functionality of a standalone headset.
At least one group within Apple is advocating for a pair of spectacles with a 3D camera but without any type of display tech — instead opting to use an iPhone’s screen as its primary display, similar to Snap’s spectacles. Other prototypes use their own integrated display tech to overlay AR content onto real-world environments, while additional approaches are more akin to a VR headset like Samsung’s Gear VR. Notably, no final design decision about the device has been made, the Times reported.
Word that Apple was working on its own standalone augmented reality device first surfaced in late 2016. Since then, there have been plenty of rumors surrounding such a device — including one that suggested Apple was partnering with German optical company Carl Zeiss, and another that predicted a launch of the device this summer. Of course, that latter rumor is pretty much dead at this point, seeing as Apple is reportedly still in the prototype phase.
Earlier this year, a separate Financial Times report indicated that Apple was ramping up its research & development on a wearable AR headset, but noted that a launch of such a device is still a year or more away. Similarly, Bloomberg has reported that an unveiling might take place in 2018, but probably not any sooner.
While the release timeline for an Apple AR headset is still up in the air, we can be sure that Apple is working on something akin to AR spectacles. In July, iDrop News received confirmation by way of Apple Support staff that a virtual or augmented reality headset was indeed in existence. According to the staff members, such a device can be used for animation and VR video composition.
Apple’s AR endeavors are well-known at this point, even beyond a standalone headset. In June, the company unveiled ARKit — a development toolset that will make iOS 11 the biggest augmented reality platform overnight. In the past few years, the company has also made a number of acquisitions and has filed a number of patents related to the tech.
CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about the potential of augmented reality platforms. During Tuesday’s earnings call, Cook said that he “could not be more excited about AR and what we’re seeing with ARKit.” He called the tech “big and profound,” and added that “this is one of those huge things that we’ll look back and marvel at the start of it.”