First came VR. Then came a wave of AR headsets that were high-priced and full of promises of wild mixed reality worlds. Apple now seems to be readying its own pair of smart glasses, at long last, seven years after Google Glass and four years after the debut of Oculus Rift. These reports have extended back for several years, including a story broken by CNET's Shara Tibken in 2018.
Apple has been in the wings all this time without any headset at all, although the company's aspirations in AR have been clear and well-telegraphed on iPhones and iPads for years. Each year, Apple's made significant strides on iOS with its AR tools.
I've worn more AR and VR headsets than I can even recall, and been tracking the whole landscape for years. In a lot of ways, a future Apple AR headset's logical flight path should be clear from just studying the pieces already laid out. Apple just acquired VR media-streaming company NextVR, and previously acquired AR headset lens maker Akonia Holographics.
I've had my own thoughts on what the long-rumored headset might be, and so far, the reports feel well aligned to be just that. Much like the Apple Watch, which emerged among many other smartwatches and had a lot of features I'd seen in other forms before, Apple's glasses will probably not be a massive surprise if you've been following the beats of the AR/VR landscape lately.
Remember Google Glass? How about Snapchat's Spectacles? Or the HoloLens or Magic Leap? Facebook is working on AR glasses, too, and Snap, and also Niantic. The landscape could suddenly get crowded fast.
Here's where Apple is likely to go based on what's been reported, and how the company could avoid the pitfalls of those earlier platforms.
Apple declined to comment.
Normal glasses, first, with a normal name
Getting people to put on an AR headset is hard. I've found it a struggle to remember to pack smart glasses, and find room to carry them. Most of them don't support my prescription, either.
Apple always touted the Apple Watch, first and foremost, as a "great watch." I expect the same from its glasses. If Apple makes prescription glasses and makes them available, Warby Parker-style, in seasonal frames from its Apple Stores, that might be enough for people if the frames are good looking.
From there, Apple could add AR features and let newcomers settle into the experience. Augmented reality is weird, potentially off-putting, and people will need to feel out how much of it is right for them. The original Apple Watch was designed to be glanced at for five seconds at a time. Maybe the same idea is in the works for Apple AR features.
Apple Glass is the new purported name for the glasses. Not surprising, since the watch is Apple Watch, the TV box is Apple TV. Apple could have gone the "Air" route like "AirFrames," but I wonder if these things will end up being tethered some of the time.
BDST: 2040 HRS, MAY 27, 2020