Forget Vision Pro — Apple working on AirPods with cameras and smart glasses

AirPods 2
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

While the launch of Apple's Vision Pro has made headlines, it's apparently not the only mixed-reality device the iPhone maker has been exploring. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman claims Apple is experimenting with several form factors for future wearable products, including smart glasses, AirPods with cameras, and a health-monitoring fitness ring similar to the Oura Ring or Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Ring.

Gurman said Apple's engineers have explored the possibility of developing smart glasses in the same vein as the Amazon Echo Frames or the Meta Ray-Bans to offer audio without the need for AirPods. Other features would include AI functionality and built-in cameras to identify things in your surroundings. The glasses are in an exploratory phase known as the "technology investigation" stage within Apple's hardware engineering division, Bloomberg reports. 

As for the smart ring, it would communicate with your Apple Watch to put its health-tracking features on your finger, according to an internal industrial design group's presentation. For now, though, it's still just a concept, as Gurman said Apple isn't actively working on such a device. 

Most interestingly of all, though, is that Apple is purportedly investigating how to incorporate cameras into its AirPods earbuds, which could circumvent the need for a separate wearable like smart glasses altogether. The project, codenamed B798, was launched last year to uncover a way to fit low-resolution camera sensors into earbuds about the size of AirPods, Gurman said. He speculated that such cameras could be used "to capture data that would be processed via AI and assist people in their daily routines."

Odds are that, similar to the possible use cases for the smart glasses, these camera-equipped AirPods could take photos and interact with a multi-modal voice-and-image AI system to answer questions about whatever the user is looking at. We've already seen a bare-bones version of this functionality on the Meta Ray-Ban glasses. 

Of course, all of this remains speculation for now, and don't expect any of these wearables to hit store shelves anytime soon. Gurman said that these are all early-stage internal Apple initiatives, and some, like the smart ring, are little more than concepts at this point. That being said, this does give us some plausible hints at where Apple's Wearables division could be headed. 

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Alyse Stanley
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Alyse Stanley is a news editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing weekend coverage and writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment. Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, Alyse worked as an editor for the Washington Post’s sunsetted video game section, Launcher. She previously led Gizmodo’s weekend news desk, where she covered breaking tech news — everything from the latest spec rumors and gadget launches to social media policy and cybersecurity threats.  She has also written game reviews and features as a freelance reporter for outlets like Polygon, Unwinnable, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. She’s a big fan of horror movies, cartoons, and miniature painting.