Apple is quite secretive about its future products or technologies it is currently working on, but CEO Tim Cook recently revealed that the company was very much keen on exploring the Augmented Reality (AR) technology, where it sees the future of communications. Joining the race to bring AR to masses, Apple is reportedly in talks with Germany’s Carl Zeiss to help develop digital glasses.
According to a report by AR/VR evangelist Robert Scoble, Apple is partnering with Carl Zeiss for a pair of lightweight AR glasses. An employee who works at the optics manufacturer has reportedly disclosed that the augmented reality or mixed reality glasses will be announced this year. Zeiss is currently marketing the ‘VR One Plus’ headset. With Zeiss-powered glasses, one could expect the level of optics to be notches higher.
There have been reports in the past about Apple mulling the idea of building Google Glass-like wearable which uses the augmented reality technology to superimpose content over the wearer’s field of vision. It is to be noted that augmented reality is different from Virtual Reality (VR) that requires a use of separate hardware to experience immersive content. For example, the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Samsung Gear VR headsets use VR technology while apps such as Pokemon GO are based on AR.
But why would Apple opt for AR when the industry is joining the VR bandwagon? Cook, in his interview with BuzzFeed last year, mentioned that AR is a better technology for communication than VR because the latter restricts interaction with the use of an external hardware, while AR works as a facilitator with its base in reality. He said, “There’s no substitute for human contact. And so you want the technology to encourage that.” Even in the past, Apple had indicated that it might favor AR over VR. ALSO READ: Apple CEO Tim Cook shows more faith in AR over VR, says there’s ‘no substitute for human contact’
Apple’s interest in the technology is also evident with its recent strategic hires and purchases which include motion capture specialist Faceshift, machine learning and computer vision startup Perceptio, German AR firm Metaio and Flyby Media, among others. In the past there have been reports about Apple discussing the project with potential suppliers. The company has apparently also ordered small quantities of near-eye displays from one supplier for testing. However, as the company has not ordered enough components so far to indicate that the purported digital glasses could become commercially available anytime soon.
It is to be noted that the news about Apple’s own AR glasses has been doing the rounds for quite some time with the company’s official interest being projected only towards late last year. Given that the company has only officially announced its ‘interest’ in the technology and Google’s epic failure with its Google Glass as an industry example, it is still too early to assume that the Apple AR glasses will make their consumer debut this year. ALSO READ: Apple working on Google-like augmented reality glasses