Apple could begin production of its long-rumored augmented reality glasses as early as the end of this year, noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said. The predictions come in a report published by Economic Daily News (via MacRumors) in which Kuo predicts that the glasses could be released as an iPhone accessory, and they will contain their own display while outsourcing processing, positional tracking, and networking duties to the phone itself.
Although Apple released its first augmented reality software, ARKit, back in 2017, it has yet to produce any dedicated AR hardware. Instead, its existing efforts have been on software for its existing devices, and they have relied on the user to use their phone or tablet as a screen. Last year, Apple released ARKit 2.0, which added support for multiplayer AR and introduced a new AR-specific file format called USDZ.
Rumors that Apple is preparing to release its own AR headset have been around since 2017 when Bloomberg predicted that it could release a headset as early as 2019. A further report from CNET last year claimed that the headset could be released in 2020 and would offer a combination of both AR and VR.
Apple’s AR headset won’t be the first to rely on an external phone for its processing power. LG released a similar (albeit VR) headset alongside its G5 flagship back in 2016, while more recently, North’s Focals smart glasses (which the company produced after acquiring the technology portfolio behind Intel’s canceled Vaunt glasses) paired to a connected phone via Bluetooth. Just last month, chipmaker Qualcomm announced a dedicated platform to help manufacturers produce their own phone-connected AR or VR headsets.
It’s no secret that iPhones sales have slowed down in recent years, which has led to speculation that Apple will need to look elsewhere for its future revenue growth. One area for this could be accessories, where sales revenue has risen by 33 percent even as phone sales have fallen by 15 percent. An AR headset could be a useful accessory for Apple in the future, providing a new revenue stream even if people don’t feel the need to upgrade their phones.