Not one to let Snapchat have all the fun, Apple is said to be exploring the smartglasses market in a serious way with Carl Zeiss - and may launch something as early as this year.
The latest report comes from Robert Scoble who has it from an anonymous Carl Zeiss employee. Scoble posted: "A Zeiss employee confirmed the rumors that Apple and Carl Zeiss AG are working on a light pair of augmented reality/mixed reality glasses that may be announced this year. (I thought it was next year but now that I saw this I believe it will happen this year)."
That word "light" is promising and suggests a glasses form factor - like Google Glass (pictured) - rather than helmet/visor/headset. But though Scoble says he believes the AR smartglasses could launch this year, previous rumours suggest 2018 is a safer bet.
In November we reported on word that Apple could launch a mixed reality TV within the next year. And Bloomberg's anonymous sources told it that Apple is looking at a glasses-like device, which may be linked t0 - but probably not the same thing as - said TV.
Might be waiting until 2018
It's not been much of a secret that Apple is looking into augmented reality right now, with Tim C0ok's comments on his interest being pretty explicit, not to mention the numerous patents which have surfaced and the fact that Apple has put together a secretive team of AR and VR experts including an ex-Magic Leap engineer and an ex-Oculus research scientist.
According to Bloomberg, Apple had already been in talks with potential suppliers for components of a glasses-like device late in 2016 and "has ordered small quantities of near-eye displays from one supplier" for testing purposes. We'll assume with Scoble's new info, that this is Carl Zeiss. The German optics company has been working on AR digital lens prototypes and its own VR headset line for a few years now.
The device would connect to the iPhone and present images over the wearer's vision - a la Google Glass. It would show images and other information in the wearer's field of vision, and may use augmented reality, the anonymous sources said.
This doesn't mean a product is definitely on its way, and if it is, one of the sources said we shouldn't expect to see anything until 2018 at the earliest. It would be the second major new hardware category launched under Tim Cook, the first being the Apple Watch. Cook has also gently nudged away speculation that Apple would be going first to VR, saying that he sees more value in augmented reality. Tim Cook: all about the wearables.
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