Apple's testing multiple AR headsets, as IDC predicts boom times ahead

Big numbers for AR by 2021, apparently
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We've already revealed that Apple has been aggressively hiring AR experts, but a recent report from the Financial Times backs up claims that the Cupertino company is getting serious about augmented reality headsets.

The FT report claims Apple is testing a number of different AR headsets, and is still deciding on "the most compelling application" of AR. One prototype being pushed by "one group of engineers" and has "3D cameras but no screens, leaving the iPhone as the hub and main display."

Essential reading: Apple's AR exploits revealed

The report likens this method to the Snapchat Specs, dispensing with a display in your eye line, although this would mean that applications would be fairly limited. Spectacles just stick to quick filming for sharing on the Snapchat platform, but it's hard to see Apple limiting its AR play in that way.

Apple's activity is backed up by a new report in Wired, which stated that, "[Apple] has long been thought to be building ARKit-enabled glasses" and quoted AR-focused VC Matthew Miesnieks saying that it was "100 percent" true and that he'd, "spoken to people who have held and used the prototypes of them."

Apple's testing multiple AR headsets, as IDC predicts boom times ahead

Building AR has been tough going for the industry and while it's generally accepted that the technology has huge potential to even replace the smartphone as a platform. IDC's latest predictions state AR is set to grow from $11.4 billion in 2017 to nearly $215 billion 2021, there's yet to be a compelling case for consumer use.

The report touts "AR and VR games" throughout the forecast, with total spending reaching $9.5 billion in 2021.

But the key areas for growth are still very much enterprise-based.

"The use cases that will see the fastest growth over the forecast period are lab & field (166.2%), therapy and physical rehabilitation (152%), and public infrastructure maintenance (138.4% CAGR).

And we all know the precedent set by smartglasses poster-boy Google Glass. The platform caught public attention back in 2012 and was made available to buy during an ill-conceived trial, but was embarrassingly pulled from the shelves in 2015.

But there's no doubt that Apple is extremely interested in AR.

Aside from ARKit, announced at WWDC 2017, which helps developers build AR apps for Apple devices, the company has made a string of high profile hires, and Tim Cook seems happy to wax lyrical about the potential of AR at any given opportunity.

What's more, there have been rumours of a partnership with Carl Zeiss to make the lenses, for what serial hot-air blower Robert Scoble called "a light pair of augmented reality/mixed reality glasses that may be announced this year" (they won't).

There's no doubt that Apple is going in hard on AR. But it seems like the company hasn't got much more of an idea about how the technology will pervade our lives as we have.

Apple's testing multiple AR headsets, as IDC predicts boom times ahead

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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