Apple Will Launch AR Smart Glasses in 2020: Report
Apple plans to release a pair of augmented reality smart glasses, according to a report from Bloomberg. The smart glasses will debut in 2020, launch date yet to be announced, in competition with a rapidly growing number of similar offerings by major tech companies.
iPhone for Your Eyes
According to the report, the as-yet-unnamed smart glasses will have holographic displays built into the lenses. It’s not clear if the holographic displays will be in both lenses, or be more like the North Focals smart glasses with only one holographic screen. The entire lens may be the screen judging from a patent awarded to Apple on Thursday for glass-like material that can shift between transparent and opaque that Apple said is specifically for a “head-mounted device such as a pair of augmented reality glasses.” The hints about the smart glasses capabilities don’t mention whether the smart glasses will have a microphone or speaker in the frames, but it’s logical to assume that the glasses will feature a way for wearers to interact with Apple’s voice assistant, Siri. Without that, the glasses will be severely limited in their functions.
The smart glasses will likely tie-in to Apple’s larger plans for new hardware in 2020. The next iPhone is supposed to be the biggest upgrade in three years and the smart glasses will almost certainly be an accessory for the new phone. Among the phone’s expected features will be a 3D camera on the back that will help map out the space and objects around it, placing digital images over the real world in a physically plausible way. As an accessory connected to the iPhone, the lenses in the smart glasses will display notifications and information from apps on the phone such as maps and games. There may even be a specific App Store for the smart glasses similar to the one created for Apple Watch.
Everyone is Building Smart Glasses With Voice Assistants
Smart glasses appear to be recovering from the backlash to Google Glass and the “Glasshole effect.” Announcements about new and updated varieties of smart glasses, along with other wearable tech, have been a regular event over the last year. The companies developing them are taking one of a couple of approaches to designing them. Despite the lack of information on Siri’s role in Apple’s smart glasses, both types of smart glasses under development by tech companies rely on voice assistants to function.
The variety that Apple is apparently building is similar to the North Focals smart glasses in that both use a holographic display. That’s also the style that Facebook, in partnership with Ray-Ban, is building. Both North and the unreleased Facebook smart glasses include a built-in voice assistant as well as a ring control for the glasses. And just this week, Dutch website Galaxy Club found a patent application by Samsung for a set of smart glasses that will include two holographic screens built into the lenses, along with extras like small cameras.
The other approach is to focus exclusively on audio. Amazon’s recently announced Echo Frames have no holographic display and rely on the Alexa voice assistant to coordinate everything. The Bose Frames smart glasses also use voice assistants to operate, without a visual component. The new wave of smart glasses is still too new to determine what motivates people to pick one style or brand over another, but if Apple joins the competition next year, it will face plenty of rivals for space in front of the customer’s eyes.