Late last year, we heard rumblings that Apple is working on a pair of augmented reality glasses. Now, it appears the company won't be doing it alone. According to a new report, Apple is teaming with optics company Carl Zeiss to work on a high-tech pair of glasses.
The news comes by way of noted blogger Robert Scoble, who claims a Zeiss employee confirmed the rumors that "Apple and Carl Zeiss are working on a light pair of augmented reality/mixed reality glasses that may be announced this year." As Scoble points out, Zeiss' CES 2017 booth was located in the Augmented Reality section of the show, despite the company not having any new AR products on hand.
Scoble's report doesn't offer many details, though the fact that he makes specific mention of a "light" pair of glasses suggests that Apple's goggles may be a mainstream-friendly lifestyle product, much like Snap's Spectacles. Snap Inc.'s new wearable became an instant hit when it launched late last year, thanks to its ability to record first-person Snapchat videos and the fact that it more or less looks like a normal pair of sunglasses.
Zeiss, Apple's potential partner, is no stranger to high-tech glasses and cameras. The company's products include a line of lens add-ons for smartphones, as well as Zeiss VR One, the company's own mobile VR headset.
At least year's CES, we went hands-on with a prototype pair of glasses from Smart Optics, a startup venture from the Carl Zeiss Group. It had a small, strategically-placed OLED display and a fresnel lens (a flat lens comprised of a series of concentric circles), creating a non-obtrusive augmented data delivery system. During the demo, the glasses received data from a nearby phone.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been championing AR for quite some time, calling it a "core technology" in an interview last year with the Washington Post. Cook also hinted that AR is "something we're doing a lot of things on behind [the] curtain."
Apple isn't the only major player apparently looking to bring augmented reality to the masses. Scoble notes that Meta, a company whose AR glasses have blown us away in the past, are working on a similarly mainstream product with optics company Lumus.
Bloomberg's original report from last November suggested a possible 2018 launch for Apple's AR glasses. But based on Scoble's new info, it appears that Apple's specs may be ready for a 2017 reveal. With the 10th-anniversary iPhone likely launching this September, perhaps Apple is looking to make an extra-big splash with its milestone handset by pairing it with a set of glasses that blend iOS apps with the real world.