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Apple's work in augmented reality is expected to culminate into "Apple Glass" — a wearable heads-up display straight out of sci-fi. Here's what it looks like and what to expect for the peripheral, based on very early leaks.
Rumors have circulated about Apple's next big thing in wearables for years, but many reports have conflated augmented reality and virtual reality. While Apple may release an "Apple VR" headset in 2023, "Apple Glass" is the futuristic augmented reality device that comes after.
Patents, leaks, and rumors show that Apple is working on a set of goggles or glasses that a user could wear and view graphics overlayed on real-world objects. These would use transparent lenses to allow the user to see the world with their eyes, rather than on a display inside of a VR headset.
"Apple Glass" would use a fashion-first design that looks like a regular pair of glasses. The approach to design is expected to be much like Apple Watch, a computing device that normal, non-nerdy people want to wear.
AppleInsider produced a set of renders based on what we've learned about the "Apple Glass" so far. The technology exists for rudimentary AR glasses to exist today, but not to the expected extent of Apple's device.
The display could be shown via a small projector or through transparent pixels on the display itself. Theoretically, the user will see information like Apple Maps directions or incoming iMessages without losing sight of the world in front of them.
Google had something called Google Glass that was meant to be an early foray into an AR wearable. It failed before getting off the ground for several reasons, including the excessively techy style, front-facing camera, and short battery life. The company later repositioned the headset for enterprise users, but little has been said since.
The "Apple Glass" release window has been difficult to ascertain since many rumors confused Apple's AR and VR efforts. While the "Apple VR" headset could launch in 2022, Apple's AR glasses aren't expected until 2025 or later.
Apple leaker Jon Prosser shared several details about the "Apple Glass" in a June 2020 leak. He disclosed what he thinks the name of the product will be, a $499 price point, and some of the expected features based on information he described as an internal Apple source.
Patents filed in January 2022 showed Apple was working on lenses that could be adjusted to correct the wearer's vision. This means users wouldn't need to change out their lenses if their prescription changed, which would likely be an expensive process.
Prosser shared images of what appeared to be safety glasses with cameras attached, suggesting it was an early prototype. They are said to have a user interface called "Starboard," similar to Apple's iOS Springboard.
Mark Gurman shared a rumor in December 2022 suggesting that Apple would call its AR/VR operating system xrOS — extended reality operating system. It would be used on the Apple VR headsets first, then later in the expected Apple Glass.
The future is difficult to see
Rumors about Apple's augmented reality glasses have slowed, but that doesn't mean development of the product has. As the impending release of Apple's first VR headset draws closer, leaks will be focusing on it and its successor.
Once the VR headset is out and we get a proper look at xrOS, expect the rumor mill to start churning out plenty more details about Apple Glass and its feature set. Given the current trajectory of expected Apple products, 2025 is beginning to feel too soon for such a futuristic product, so we expect later release windows to leak soon.