Bloomberg reports that representatives from Apple held meetings with suppliers of parts for augmented reality devices at CES last week. The company is believed to be working on an AR headset of its own, with an approximate 2019 release timeframe. Apple famously doesn’t partake in public demos at the consumer electronics show, but always has engineers and managers in attendance to find potential future manufacturers for its products and keep abreast of new technologies.
How newsworthy this tidbit is from Bloomberg is a little debatable given Apple probably talks with many companies at CES relating to all parts of its business, but it somewhat reaffirms that the ‘AR glasses’ project is ongoing.
Apple certainly wasn’t alone in courting suppliers. From the Bloomberg story:
During CES, representatives from major players like Apple, Facebook, and Google met with suppliers that make the nuts and bolts required to power AR glasses, according to people familiar with the meetings. Smaller firms like Snap and China’s Xiaomi also met with potential partners at the show, indicating a desire to build their own AR headsets. Behind the scenes, Samsung and LG have already placed small orders of AR components to start prototyping devices.
Virtual reality headsets continue to have a lot of public visibility at CES with many companies like Occulus running massive booths to demo the latest gear to attendees. It’s not really fair to remark that Apple is behind in this space as the software and hardware required for augmented reality rather than virtual reality is related, but requires much more advanced hardware and software to pull. Some companies are demoing early concepts and prototypes (like Microsoft HoloLens), but a viable release estimate is as distant as the rumors for the Apple project.
Until the technology matures to make a real mass-market augmented reality headset, Apple is focusing on adding AR features to iPhone and iPads through ARKit. Apple is rumored to be readying an ‘ARKit 2’ as part of this year’s OS updates which will bring better object tracking and other features.