Where Are Apple's AR Glasses?

One of the unlikely rumored products that didn't make it into Apple's recent product reveal event was the tech giant's rumored augmented reality glasses. While there's little doubt that a select number of Apple engineers are working in some secret Apple Park security-sealed room on such a device, the likelihood of such a device seeing the light of day any time in the near future is slim.

Related: Which iPhones Are Compatible with iOS 13? Can Your iPad & Apple Watch Run iPadOS & watchOS 6?

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Apple is a company that doesn't follow the first mover advantage business strategy, but rather the first improver advantage. They carefully evaluate technology trends and attempts by other companies who boldly place the innovations into the marketplace. As consumers use the products and report their delight and frustration with them, Apple carefully considers how to enhance and simplify the delightful aspects while minimizing or entirely eliminating the annoying ones. Their history proves this approach has been incredibly successful, as shown with the rabid consumer adoption of the iPod, iPhone and iPad. That's why we will likely see a foldable iPhone a few years from now because Samsung is shipping the Galaxy Fold today. And that's why we won't see any Apple AR glasses for awhile, because no one is shipping any compelling hardware to make consumers excited about augmented reality.

Remember how 3D televisions were going to revolutionize the way we watch movies at home? Once the inflated promises of marketing reached the real world experiences of competing standards, uncomfortable ugly glasses, headaches, and general malaise, the bloom dropped from the rose. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find any major television manufacturer offering 3D capabilities in their high-end, expensive 4K HDR OLED offerings. And good luck seeking out any new movie releases in 3D format. A similar flip of consumer interest is happening in the augmented reality space. Instead of the Tony Stark Iron Man visor experiences of flashy projected overlays giving its users an overlay of visualized data streams, we get jerky stuttering animations viewed through a small window as our iPhone or iPad battery charge is rapidly depleted.

Remember the enthusiasm and excitement generated by Microsoft's demonstration of HoloLens? Their Minecraft AR presentation fooled us into thinking the AR experience was wide and expansive when in fact the presenter's view using the actual HoloLens was like looking through a postage stamp cut out while the headset was tethered to a huge rig powering the headset. And whatever happened to the mythical Magic Leap Lightwave headset that has yet to see any significant consumer launch or adoption? Given that any of these headline grabbing technologies have yet to see any kind of uptick in market acceptance and penetration, Apple would be antithetical in their established business practices by releasing any such device before its competitors at the very least captured a toehold of consumer acceptance. Unfortunately, there isn't any consumer-grade augmented reality hardware we have seen that will achieve this any time soon. And that is why we likely won't see any wearable AR glasses product from Apple for several years, if ever.

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Mike Riley's picture

Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.