The next wearable from Apple may be a set of glasses called "Apple Glass." Just as Apple Watch revolutionized wearables, these augmented reality glasses may change how we interact with the world around us. While the product has been rumored for years, details about the final model, price, and release date have only begun to leak. A set of glasses will be a hard sell for consumers however, as the abject failure that was Google Glass is still fresh in our memory.
● Rumored 2021 launch
● Plastic or metal frames
● Will display information on both lenses
● iPhone dependent for data
● No cameras, just LiDAR
● Aims to be fashionable, not "geekyâ€
● Gesture controls expected
● UI called Starboard
● Prescription lenses available
● May cost $499
The future of wearables has always been augmented reality, at least that is what tech companies and sci-fi tell us. Apple could very well be close to achieving that future with a wearable heads-up-display called "Apple Glass."
"Apple Glass" Rumored Features
There have been rumors about wearable AR glasses for years, but very few tidbits have actually leaked until recently. Patent applications have been the best source of information yet, and show some promising features for an Apple headset.
The following features are a combination of rumors, patents, and leaks that represent our best look at what "Apple Glass" might be.
There haven't been any leaked photos of the actual design, but it is rumored that Apple wants these glasses to look fashionable and approachable. Apple Watch is a good place to look for how Apple handles wearable design; subtle but still obviously a piece of tech.
Much of what has been shown in patents look like safety glasses, though these are prototype drawings meant to illustrate the patent and not the product. Ultimately "Apple Glass" could look like a normal pair of glasses, but there is no way of knowing until something more official leaks out.
Designing a tech product that users will want to wear on their face is no simple task. Style, color, and even lens shape will make or break most purchasing decisions, and Apple is a company known for a one-size-fits-all approach to many of their products.
A new rumor came from Prosser on May 21, when he said there would be a "heritage edition" set of glasses designed to look like the ones worn by Steve Jobs. This seems to be out of nowhere, and even Bloomberg's Mark Gurman felt the need to step in and say that all rumors up to that point were false.
Gurman asserts that there are two distinct devices, as reported by AppleInsider over the years, one is the purported glasses, and the other an AR headset. Prosser agrees there are two devices, but does not agree with Gurman's lengthy release timeline of 2023 for the glasses.
Processing Capabilities and Battery Life
Wireless signals, smart displays, microphones, powerful processors, and LiDAR add up to a device in need of a big battery. If Apple wants a device that everyone wants to wear, it not only has to look good, it has to perform. A big heavy battery and hot processor just won't cut it, so Apple will have to find a balance.
One aspect Apple can cut back on is processing power. As with the first generation Apple Watch, the smart glasses could rely upon the iPhone for all processing needs, and act only as a display for that information.
By relaying information from the phone to the glasses, Apple will drastically cut down on local processing and need only worry about powering the display and sensors. There is some time yet before their rumored release in late 2021 or early 2022, so the technology allowing a slim and light pair of AR glasses could mature by then.
Jony Ive once stated that a product can be in development for years, waiting for the technology to catch up with the idea, in reference to the Apple Watch. Considering leaks about this project have been occurring for years, it is likely Apple is taking the same approach here.
Look at the AirPods for a good example of a super compact device with good battery life. Even as small as the AirPods Pro are, they last for several hours with ANC on. If the prototype models are "sleek" like Prosser said, then Apple may have already solved their design problems surrounding battery life.
Apple does not want to strap a camera to your head, because the privacy and social implications alone would be insurmountable. According to Jon Prosser, Apple will only have sensors like LiDAR on the frame, which allows for environmental awareness and gestures without the creep factor.
Apple tends to sell products with a lot of overlap, but the iPhone has always been the Apple camera, and that isn't likely to change. Unlike Google Glass, which seemed to want to replace the smartphone entirely, Apple's product will augment the iPhone experience.
Another expectation is that only the wearer will be able to view the content on the glasses, so that a random passerby cannot peek into your business.
Apple has also looked into using "Apple Glass" for authentication. Rather than utilizing the built in biometrics on your iPhone, the headset could detect if the wearer is looking at the device and unlock it immediately. This of course would only work after authenticating the wearer when putting on the glasses for the first time, much like Apple Watch.
The iPhone has Springboard, the set of icons that act as your home screen, so Apple's glasses have "Starboard." No interface elements have leaked or even been described, but it is assumed that Apple will adapt their iconography and UI for an AR interface.
Code surrounding the testing of such a UI was found in the iOS 13 GM. STARTester code and references to a device that could be "worn or held" were found in a readme file. Not much came from this, however, but does corroborate the rumored "Starboard" UI name.
The LiDAR sensor will allow for gesture control without the need of a controller or marker. However, some patents have suggested that Apple might be making a controller for more interactive experiences, like games.
As the first generation, expect most experiences to be passive. Look to Google Glass for this one; expect to see incoming text messages, directions overlaid in real life, and points of interest being highlighted.
While there won't be a camera to guide these experiences, LiDAR plus geolocation, compass direction, head tilt, eye tracking, and other sensors would go a long way in ensuring accuracy when displaying AR objects.
An iOS 14 code leak shows off a new AR commerce app codenamed "Gobi," which will be able to display objects and information using specialized QR codes. This app may be a precursor to how some data is displayed in the Apple headset.
"Apple Glass" Price
The biggest leak about Apple's potential wearable came on May 18. Jon Prosser said that the "Apple Glass" would be $499 plus the cost of prescription lenses. It is likely those lenses will need to be custom made as well, so depending on insurance, customers could easily spend $1500 on the entire device.